DOMINION OF RELIGION, FORCE OF CIVILIZATION.
January 9, 2009 by Patrice Ayme
RELIGION HAS TO BE REMOVED FROM THE POLITICAL EQUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST. AND THAT PROBABLY MEANS BY FORCE.
Roger Cohen wrote an excellent essay on the Arab-Israeli conflict, in light of Israel’s assault on Gaza and Hamas ["Dominion of the Dead", NYT and IHT, January 7, 2008]. In it Cohen argues, among other things, that the weight of dead history rules the conflict: “History is relentless. Sometimes its destructive gyre gets overcome: France and Germany freed themselves after 1945 from war’s cycle. So did Poland and Germany. China and Japan scarcely love each other but do business. Only in the Middle East do the dead rule.”
It may be rather the dominion of religions that is generating the hatred. From way back.
It is highly politically incorrect to attack religion (because a superficial reading of the republican constitution in Western secular states calls for tolerance; but tolerance, implicitly, requires good behavior: the secular republic, a religion of its own, rules and just tolerates religious superstition). Nevertheless, religion obviously dominates the rest in the Middle East. It’s faiths over reason, and faiths rule. As faiths hate each other, and try to exterminate each other, it’s war for ever, as long as the final solution has not imposed itself.
Comparisons with past strife in Europe, and the present unification of Europe, have to be used very carefully, when talking about Israel and the Arabs. But they are revealing. Roger Cohen does not get into what made the European conflicts different from the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will do this presently, and it suggests how to get out of it.
The Arab-Israeli conflict was built in the version of the Qur’an given to us by Caliph Uthman. In the Qur’an Jews are insulted, threatened, and apparently, threatened with death (whatever apologists of Islam who do not seem to have read the Qur’an in depth say). Interestingly, the Muslims inherited the hatred of Jews from the Christians (some are not going to like the word “hatred”; again, they should go back to the Qur’an, and read it, to learn that many pigs and monkeys are actually… Jews, put into this dismal state by God Himself). Threatened with death (once again!), the Jews/Israelis are in no mood to let their guard down.
So we cannot get out of the Arab-Israeli conflict as long as the religions are left to speak. Hamas, or Hezbollah, and most Arab states, and to a significant extent Israel, are all religious, and Hamas and Israel’s government have been democratically elected (that does not mean they are full democracies; they are not, because democracy requires full democratic institutions, and obedience to Universal Human Rights).
Let’s compare with Europe. Although sometimes there were extensive religious conflicts in Europe, they were not baked into the fundamental European conflict mix. Religions were incidental, incidental to, an excuse for, the fundamental power plays in Europe. On the grandest historical scheme, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain belonged, sometimes for centuries, to the same country.
France, Germany and Poland were part of the same polity. Here are pell-mell samples of past facts: a lot of Germania was Roman, and all of Germany belonged to the Merovingian, and then Carolingian empires (which extended all the way to Poland); a British slave became empress of the Franks, a king of France married an Ukrainian princess, another a Danish princess, still another was elected king of Poland; France and Britain are actually the same country, more or less divided in two to this day (same with Germany), France was all involved in the Thirty Year war in Germany, Napoleon not only united Germany, but its Grand Army was greatly made of Germans, etc… So the fighting in Europe was inside a single civilizational system. Europeans all shared the same laws, religions and even language for centuries, or even millennia. They may have different languages now (again unified by Anglo-Normand, (aka “English”)), but they have the same cultural roots, they are all variants of the same civilization. The Greco-Romano-Frankish civilization.
In the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the wars between France and Germany had clear rights and wrongs. For example the German universal health care system was clearly the best in the world, an inspiration for France. Germany had also the highest literacy rate in the world (about 100%).
But then, France was a democracy and a republic, with universal human rights, whereas Germany was not a republic, not a democracy, but a mild fascist system, a “Reich”. The “Reich”, then, not restrained by democratic checks and balances, became ever more fascist, and attacked all of Europe (August 1914). That did not work too well, so, propped by rogue American plutocrats, persisting in its erroneous ways, Germany became ever more fascist, racist and demented, until France and Britain declared war to it on September 3, 1939, to save democracy. By then many Germans had a feeling of doom, as they perceived they were not on the right side of right. Fascism in Germany was terminated in 1945, and many of the Nazis had come to realize, even before this, that they could not go on like that. There was a clash of civilization, but the good civilization won.
It’s politically correct to proclaim that there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the rest. But Islam was initially constructed as a war machine against Christianity and Judaism, just like Christianity was constructed as a war machine against all other religions (and exterminated them all, except Judaism, although it came close in the fifth century). Right now, there is at least a clash of religions.
Some of the wrongs between Israel and Islam are from way back: Christianity was built by oppressing the Jews (allusion to what Constantine and his successors did). Christians ejected Jews from Israel, and built a church on the great Jewish temple. Islam inherited this, but cranked it up to the next level, by making the oppression of the Jews official. They also built several Muslim mosques and “shrines”on the Jewish Temple Mount, perhaps to show they were several times as bad as the Christians. (By then the Franks were applying full Roman law again and had given the Jews their full rights back, in equality with Catholics.)
Islam is antidemocratic (it’s not just a religion but a system of government that loudly proclaim what Hitler called the “Fuehrerprinzip”, i.e., the Chief is always endowed by God with absolute right). Israel is also fundamentally anti democratic: to say that people from a particular religion (Judaism) have particular rights on a piece of land is an offensive tribal imposition.
And so on. Both sides are very wrong. If they keep on persisting in their erroneous ways, Weapons of Mass Destruction will set them right, or whatever dust is left. If one wants to help them out, one has to tell them their thousands truths mighty soon, in no uncertain terms, and apply enough carrots and sticks to change their behavior. Being just nice will not do it. They cannot be treated as adults. It is extremely clear in the case of Hamas, but, unfortunately, this applies to Israel too. Democracy can go wrong when its institutional roots are not deep enough: consider the Weimar republic.
To come back to the democracy-turned-fascist that misgoverned Germany with the anxious approval of the German people: democracy was imposed by force there in 1945, after killing more than 11% of the German population, and destroying the country (unfortunately). If France and Great Britain had attacked earlier, the outcome would have been better (but Great Britain, as the USA had no army, and no inclination to treat Germany severely). In other words, force can work as a last resort. To break the rule of Islam and Judaism in the Middle East as political system is a necessity, and will happen, either by polite force, or massive destruction.
P/S 1: To the European historical entanglement corresponded psychological entanglements. The Roman aggression, or, let’s say, civilizational push, made the rather pacific Germans ever more aggressive and militarized in return (we know this from archeological studies). In turn Rome became ever more fascist (as generals such as Marius became larger than previously authorized life). Thus, historically and ironically, in the great and long confrontation between Roma and Germania, Rome was advanced, but fascist, and Germania was primitive, but democratic and anti-sexist. After a millennium of this, the Germans (in the person of the elected king of the Franks Clovis) learned to become fascist (Clovis became Consul and exerted Roman imperator powers: “Vase de Soisson”), and the Romans less sexist (they had at least one ruling and civilization forging empress, an “Augusta”).
P/S 2: Thus conflict creates mental entanglement, and right now, that means entanglement with hatred. And hatred plenty there will be, because Israel has already killed hundreds of apparently innocent small children in Gaza in the present offensive. Differently from Auschwitz, and in spite of Israeli efforts to hide it all, this is in full sight of the entire planet. Now the entire planet, differently from the populace of Nazi Germany (from which Auschwitz was more or less hidden), is confronted with having to decide to protest this, or not, and do something about it, or not. When children are dying, the weight is heavy. There is so much that the entire planet’s moral sense can take. At some point, only force will bring relief. But that means enforcing no more attacks, from any side. Neither from bulldozers, rockets, nor hate inspired documents, such as the literal, Uthman inspired Qur’an.
P/S 3: Massively lethal force was used to remove religion from the political equation in Europe, all over Europe, killing millions [religious wars of the 16-17 C.] By the time the US Constitution rolled out, the removal by force of religion from the equation was a given (so the USA does not have as much memory of the struggle to eliminate religion from politics). The first two US presidents put it thus in a joint document:”… As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion…”[1796-97]. (The recent re-imposition of religion in the USA, is very recent, indeed, dating from 1956, and is, of course, an ominous decline, in part at the root of the present socioeconomic crisis, and Warren is its prophet. Amen.)
P/S 4: The British government accepted that France was not part of its dominion only in 1815 CE. So the “100 year war” (officially 1337-1453 or 1337-1558, when Calais fell back in official French hands) lasted nearly 500 years. It was originally a French civil war between the Plantagenet and the Valois (with right being on the British side). In 1940, the Prime Minister, Churchill proposed the (re-)unification of France and Britain as one country, but the idiotic French PM declined. Nowadays, British and French are European Union citizens, and are getting quickly more unified than ever.
P/S 5: Is a long term peaceful solution possible to the question of Israel? Sure. But one has to get the religions back in their cages underground first, and throw away the key. Second, the solution will have to be imposed by force, say by the future imperial might of the (inchoating) Euro-Mediterranean Union. The idea would be to recreate basically the Roman empire (minus the crazy homicidal Christian rule of the late empire), with Israel as a precious asset, a larger version of the United Arab Emirates, a rich province profitable to its neighbors. By force, we mean legal force (preferably), a more muscular version of the force used in the EU construction.