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Articles and Blog Posts by Daniel Pipes   RSS 2.0 Feed

When Arab Politicians' Shouts and Whispers Contradict
Rely on Public Statements, Not Seductive Murmurings

by Daniel Pipes  •  Winter 2023  •  Middle East Quarterly

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In 1933, an exasperated British ambassador to Iraq dressed down the country's King Faisal. "Was I to report to my government," he asked rhetorically,

that Iraq's public men, men who had held the highest positions in the State, made speeches on solemn occasions in which they voiced opinions which they knew to be false and meaningless? Was I to say that the Iraqi Parliament was just a sham, a place where time and money was wasted by a handful of men, who, while masquerading as statesmen, neither meant what they said, nor said what they believed?[1]

In like spirit, a U.S. ambassador to Iraq in the 1950s wrote of Nuri al-Sa'id, who served as prime minister on fourteen occasions: "Nuri's public statements on Israel differed sharply from what he had to say in private. His public statements, like those of all Pan-Arab nationalists, were bitter and uncompromising. In private, he discussed Israel calmly, reasonably, and with moderation."[2]

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Israel's Partial Victory
The Arab States Tiptoed Away

by Daniel Pipes  •  December 2022  •  Commentary

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The State of Israel celebrates its 75th birthday in 2023, a year that will also mark a major but generally unnoticed milestone in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During Israel's first 25 years, from 1948 to 1973, Arab states – with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the lead, followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon – fought it five times with­ conventional armed forces. They built up huge armies, allied with the Soviet bloc, and fought Israel on the literal battlefield. After 1973, the states quietly bowed out and remained out over the next 50 years – which is to say, for twice as long as the era during which they actively fought Israel.

The few exceptions to this cold peace – notably, a Syrian aerial confrontation in 1982 and an Iraqi missile attack in 1991 – help make the point. Their brevity, limitations, and failure enforced the wisdom of not confronting Israel. The Syrian air force lost 82 planes, while the Israeli air force lost none. And 18 separate Iraqi missile attacks directly killed one Israeli.* The Iraqi and Syrian regimes both started nuclear programs but gave them up after coming under Israeli attacks in 1981 and 2007, respectively.

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About Those Billboards in Israel ...
Letter to the Editor

by Daniel Pipes  •  November 2, 2022  •  Ha'aretz

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Yarin Raban's article, "The Time Has Come to Violate the Divine Directive" (Oct. 12) misunderstands the billboard campaign initiated by the Israel Victory Project on the Ayalon Highway and elsewhere.

The billboards showed two prominent Israeli Arab politicians, Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, draped in and waving Israeli flags under the caption "This is the picture of victory." Raban understands this to mean our goal is "to subject Israeli Arabs to hegemonic Israeli culture, to Israeli national symbolism, and to the Jewish ethnic characterization of the Jewish state."

No, no. That is not the Israel Victory Project's object; I wish Raban had gone beyond the symbolism of the billboards to understand its purpose. Allow me to explain.

The billboards call on Israeli Arab leaders to accept the national identity of Israel, as symbolized by its flag. That does not mean imposing Israeli or Jewish culture on them. To the contrary, Israel provides for its Arab citizens a separate school system, recognition of its religious institutions and courts, and the Arabic language appears on every official state document and sign – and we are fine with that.

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Denmark Leads the West to Immigration Sanity

by Daniel Pipes  •  October 28, 2022  •  National Interest

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Today in the West, no issue matters more than immigration policy, especially at a time when much of the world, from Mexicans to Nigerians to Pakistanis, wants to move to North America and Western Europe.

Controlling immigration has proven difficult because the Establishment in destination countries tends to view mass, unfettered, and unvetted immigration as a benign phenomenon. Two examples capture this outlook. In 2014, Sweden's establishment parties, making up 86 percent of the parliament, joined forces to marginalize the civilizationist party (that is, the party focused on controlling immigration and demanding the integration of immigrants) with 14 percent. Angela Merkel, the establishment German chancellor waved in a million-plus unvetted migrants, leading to a pan-European crisis in 2015-16.

Few parties are so arch-establishment as Denmark's Social Democrats (SD). Founded in 1871, it had the largest representation in parliament for seventy-seven straight years. Its accomplishments include creating the welfare state, building modern Denmark, and shaping the Danish character. "Deep down, we're all Social Democrats" a person who dislikes the party acknowledged to me.

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review of Searching for Peace: A Memoir of Israel

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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The first thing of note about this memoir by a former prime minister of Israel? Its publication by a think tank, not a major New York house, signaling the limited appeal of what lies inside. And, indeed, it does lack wide appeal. Through hundreds of pages, Olmert feels sorry for himself, makes excuses for his errors, blames others for his sins, and generally avoids responsibility for his ignominious fall from the Prime Minister's Office to Cellblock 10 in the Maasiyahu Penitentiary.

The author complains of "a prolonged campaign that began immediately after I entered the Prime Minister's Office in January 2006 and ended only after I was behind bars" in February 2016. Why did this alleged 10-year campaign take place? Because "the authorities had conspired against me" and "a tremendous array of forces, based not only in Israel but also in the United States, came to the conclusion early on that the government I led threatened something they held dear." And what was that something they held dear? The belief "that any territorial compromise in the pursuit of a peace deal with the Palestinians was tantamount to treason." (One wonders why Rabin did not end up in prison.)

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review of Overcoming Orientalism: Essays in Honor of John L. Esposito

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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On the surface, this Festschrift is as conventional as it is reputable. Students, colleagues, and a prominent university press celebrate a prolific and influential scholar on reaching his 80th birthday with a substantial tome of original essays related to his lifelong interest.

But look harder and the apparatus shatters. The title alludes to the greatest intellectual scam of the generation – the claim that Western scholars of the Middle East served as cogs in imperialist machines. The feted scholar has written dozens of books apologizing for a totalitarian ideology, Islamism, while opening an academic center funded by and named after a notorious advocate of that same ideology. The book's editor revels in a university position named after one of the most active political leaders promoting that same ideology.

In other words, Overcoming Orientalism represents one cog (as it were) in the great deceit of post-1978 American scholarship, corrupt in its purposes, fraudulent in its ideas, and toxic in its impact. Rather than argue this point for all twelve essays, let us concentrate on a sample chapter, "How Islamic Is ISIS" by Soheil H. Hashmi, professor of International Relations on the Alumnae Foundation and professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College.

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review of Muslim-Christian Relations in Damascus amid the 1860 Riot

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx stand out as two of modern Europe's most enduringly influential thinkers; Abu-Mounes, author of this well-researched study of a major crisis in Muslim-Christian relations, perfectly exemplifies their influence.

Rousseau developed romanticism, and especially the idea of the noble savage, of the purity of life before civilization interfered and corrupted. This legend latterly transmuted into the idea that the world was a beautiful and peaceful place until Christian Europeans turned up. Today's soft visions of Al-Andalus and American Indians trace back to this outlook. When considering Syria before the Europeans, Abu-Mounes adopts this same inaccurate dreaminess: "Hitherto, the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities who had established themselves in Damascus used to respect each other's beliefs and ways of life. Even though there were sporadic bouts of tension and suspicion between them, they generally lived peaceably together."

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review of Islam and Nationalism in Modern Greece, 1821-1940

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Noting the under-researched nature of his topic, Katsikas offers the results of more than twenty years' work in this volume. He defines his purpose as considering "the interactions between modern Greece and its Muslim populations from the Greek War of Independence in 1821 to the entrance of Greece into World War II in October 1940," or in what the University of Chicago assistant professor dubs the "post-Ottoman period" of Greek history.

He starts by emphasizing the "massacres, atrocities, and expulsions of Muslims" in the war of independence. Out of that brutal struggle, and quite contrary to other liberation movements, "the Christian religion was widely regarded as the most significant criterion of Greek nationality, and therefore it was often given prominence over the Greek language by the overwhelming majority of Hellenes." Local Muslims were associated with the Ottoman empire and seen as enemies in principle, though their actual treatment depended more on a Muslim's actions, whether pro- or anti- the new Greek state.

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review of In the Lion's Den: Israel and the World

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Danon is a talented fighter for Israel. This reviewer noted in a 2013 article about him, "Three qualities stand out: a devotion to principle, a mastery of tactics, and the ability to articulate a vision." As a Likud member of Knesset, these inevitably led him to clash with the long-time head of the party, Benjamin Netanyahu, leading to Danon's being humiliatingly fired by Netanyahu in 2014 from his position as Israel's deputy minister of defense. But Netanyahu could not keep his nemesis down, so he did the next best thing and appointed him to a prestigious but potentially career-ending position, that of Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Lion's Den tells the story of that five-year assignment, in 2015-20.

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review of A Good Country: My Life in Twelve Towns and the Devastating Battle for a White America

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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In a shameless, prolonged whine, Ali-Khan tells her autobiography through the device of the twelve U.S. towns she has lived in since her birth in Florida in November 1974, using them as vehicles variously to impugn the United States. Relying on the well-known rhetorical method of contrasting ideals with realities, this sometime hijab-wearing extreme left-winger, the child of Pakistani immigrant parents, discovers a differently-flavored depravity in each of them.

For example, take Philadelphia, where this reviewer lives. Ali-Khan's chapter begins with 9/11, which took place almost simultaneously with her move to the city. Rather than share in her fellow-citizens' outrage at jihadis murdering three thousand Americans, she strikes a very different pose, dismissing Al-Qaeda as "an international terrorist group that claimed to speak for Muslims" and bemoaning that "my country" instantly turned "their rage toward Muslims." (Do excuse the bad grammar, a constant companion in this book.)

When the U.S. government responded to the attack with a war on the Taliban, Ali-Khan "imagined what Amer­ican attacks would mean for Afghan civilians ... and was repulsed by my country's misdirected vengeance and blood­thirst." (Note the mocking repetition of "my country.") The result was, "our nation laid waste to large Muslim civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq." Even worse, she reports, her country "opened the torture camp at Guantanamo."

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review of Fighting the Last War

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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By "fighting the last war," Bale and Bar-On mean (to simplify a bit) that critics of the radical Right focus on Nazism when the real problem is Islamism. Old-style right-wingers – "tiny fringe groups of actual extremists, such as revolutionary neo-fascists and neo-Nazis, armed Klansmen, Christian Identity adherents, Sovereign Citizens, violent skinheads, virulent anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, racial Odinists, and unaligned white supremacists" – are marginal figures that cannot seriously challenge the existing order. That said, they make a convenient punching bag for the "globalist elites, their media mouthpieces, and the left" who prefer, for reasons of identity politics, to ignore the Islamist elephant in the room. (Also, those actual extremists lack a lobby.)

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review of Empire on the Seine: The Policing of North Africans in Paris, 1925-1975

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Prakash, a visiting assistant professor of something called International and Global Studies at Middlebury College, invokes Edward Said as he rehearses a wearying catalogue of sins on the part of the French vis-à-vis their North Africa immigrants over a 50-year period. He claims that the police of Paris in 1925-75 saw North Africans "as inherently violent, criminally predisposed, irrational, and infantile," and that these views that grew out of their "colonial knowledge production" which categorized North Africans as "undisciplined, irrational, fanatically and dogmatically beholden to Islam, and intrinsically prone to violence." Such racism then went on to justify hypocrisy, exploitation, surveillance, injustice, and violence.

Prakash opens with an account of a 1961 incident when the police intruded on one Mohammed Drici, beat him up and then, as he was taken to the local station, "shot [him] in the neck from behind. Miraculously, he survived. Despite his wounds, he was not immediately dispatched to a hospital but instead marched to the local police commissariat. There he was again beaten and kicked by other auxiliary policemen and regular officers." Prakash presents such unaccountable brutality as typical of the North African experience in Paris.

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A Century of the Muslim Brotherhood
Taking Stock

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2022  •  Middle East Quarterly

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In The Secret Apparatus: The Muslim Brotherhood's Industry of Death (New York: Bombardier Books, 2022), Cynthia Farahat argues that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), founded nearly a century ago, presents a far greater threat than is usually perceived, being nothing less than "the world's incubator of modern Islamic terrorism" and "the world's most dangerous militant cult." She traces leading Egyptian groups such as al-Takfir wa'l-Hijra, al-Jamaʻa al-Islamiya, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad back to the MB, as well as non-Egyptian ones like Ansar al-Shariʻa in Libya, Jamaʻat al-Tawhid wa'l-Jihad in Jordan, Talaiʻ al-Fateh in several countries, Hamas, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. With such an array of accomplishments, she concludes that the MB presents an "existential threat" to the United States. Those not alarmed by the MB, in brief, Farahat wants urgently to alarm.

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Why the Death Edict on Salman Rushdie?
The death edict was neither about rivalries nor geopolitics

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 23, 2022  •  National Interest

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The stabbing of Salman Rushdie raises the question: Why did Ayatollah Khomeini sentence Salman Rushdie to death in 1989 for his novel The Satanic Verses? That the Iranian dictator had not read the book made this action, one that dispensed with laws, boundaries, and precedents, the more surprising.

Robin Wright explains in the New Yorker that this "was a political move to exploit the erupting fury in Pakistan, India, and beyond." Giles Kepel argues that Khomeini's edict "effectively proclaim[ed] himself the spiritual guide of all Muslims ... thereby wresting the leadership role from the Saudis." Sam Westrop, head of Islamist Watch at the Middle East Forum, concurs: "After Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Britain flew to Saudi to petition for an international campaign in October 1988, Khomeini thought he needed to speak up or risk losing out."

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Salman Rushdie Was Never Safe

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 19, 2022  •  Spectator

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The stabbing of Salman Rushdie sends a renewed message to the world: take Islamism – the transformation of the Islamic faith into a radical utopian ideology inspired by medieval goals – seriously.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the most consequential Islamist of the past century, personally issued the edict (often called a fatwa) condemning Rushdie to death in 1989. Khomeini, responding to the title of Rushdie's magical-realist novel The Satanic Verses, decided it blasphemed Islam and he deserved death. Initially alarmed by this edict, Rushdie spent over eleven years in hiding protected by the British police, furtively moving from one safe house to another under a pseudonym, his life totally disrupted.

Already during those years, however, Rushdie made several feints to convince himself that the edict was relaxing. In 1990, he disavowed elements in his book that question the Quran or challenge Islam; his opponents rightly dismissed this as deceit, but Rushdie insisted, "I feel a lot safer tonight than I felt yesterday."

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