‘Spring’ it surely is not

‘Spring’ it surely is not

JERUSALEM – The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, are the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of North Africa’s authoritarian repressive regimes.

In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups – the Brotherhood and the Salafists – overwhelmingly won the second round of legislative elections held in December, battering the secular and liberal forces.

The Brotherhood (with over 40 percent of the vote) was founded in 1928. It has never deviated from its central axiom: “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

It is this radical vision that animates all those in the region who seek a fully Islamic society and way of life. The Muslim Brotherhood always has been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly anti-Semitic – points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the so-called “Arab Spring.” Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own.

This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly called a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar last Feb. 18, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He called for pluralistic democracy in Egypt, then prayed for “the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem.

Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV (Jan. 28, 2009), Qaradawi provided religious justification for both past and future holocausts: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption….The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them….Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have not deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism – whether these libels come from “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” forgery, Henry Ford’s “The International Jew,” Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, Christian anti-talmudism, medieval blood libels, or the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.

The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on Nov. 25, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” The rally was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews.

This kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be canceled overnight. Calls for such a step, however, have been repeatedly heard in recent months even from the “liberal” and “progressive” sectors of the political spectrum as well as from the Islamist parties.

Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, bluntly told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on the first day of 2012 that his organization will never “recognize Israel at all,” whatever the circumstances. Israel, he emphasized, was a “criminal enemy” with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place.

If this treaty is not to be abrogated, much will depend on the United States making clear to Egypt how dire would be the economic and political consequences.

It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah. Apart from seeking to impose sharia law, and to further downgrade the status of women – while repressing Coptic Christians and other non-Muslim minorities – the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce U.S. influence in the region. Needless to say, like the Brotherhood itself, Islamists consider themselves to be the sole authentic interpreters of divine will.

In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace.” At the same time, it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.

JTA Wire Service