Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Johann Hari Interviews

There is a great interview with Johann Hari (in two parts) here and here. He discusses a lot, from the media, to Chomsky, to Hitchens, to Galloway, to Israel, to Iraq. And, in my mind, what resonates in the points he makes is a combination of common sense (a commitment to reality over dogma) as well as a real belief in leftwing principles (democracy, economic inclusion etc.). I can’t think of a columnist who I read more avidly than Hari (Krugman and Monbiot are close I guess: Monbiot’s almost as good; and I like Krugman, although there is a lot in his older work that I disagree with and he suffers from economists’ arrogance).

Interestingly, in the interview, Hari comes close to a mia culpa on Iraq too. There is certainly an admission of great uncertainty, which is refreshing (and what is missing from the writings of Hitchens, Cohen and Harry’s Place). [Dislosure: Unlike Hari I opposed the invasion but did so with considerable uncertainty too.]

Really, there’s only a couple of things I’d take issue with in the interview: first Hari’s characterisation of Galloway as anti-abortion. Which, as I understand it, is unfair. Galloway, I think, is personally, morally opposed to abortion but doesn’t think it right to impose his beliefs on other women. While there is plenty to dislike about Galloway, I don’t think this position is unreasonable (plent of pro-choice people I know hold it; Bill Clinton said (paraphrase): “I think abortion should be safe, legal and rare”). And I certainly don’t think that it is fair to label this position as anti-abortion as – as I understand it – Galloway still supports the right of women to have safe, legal abortions if they so choose.

The second thing is Hari’s claim that “markets create wealth”. This is wrong(ish) although only in a pedantic way. Really, if you are talking about why our quantity of life (rather than quality because that is a more complex issue) is much higher than it was 100 years ago (cars, washing machines, medication, running hot water, super markets - which is what I understand by the meaning of the word “wealth”) then the answer is actually technological change.

Markets may be the best way of providing the incentives necessary to drive technological change but markets and technology are not the same thing. Indeed, many of the major technological changes that have taken place in the last 200 hundred or so years have come from either:

* Eccentric scientists who followed an idea because of their love of knowledge not their love of profit.

* State funded research (computers, planes etc.)


* Serendipity. (I doubt I’d be alive at present if it weren’t for antibiotics; it’s strange to think that there discovery was entirely an accident).


This isn’t to say that markets don’t serve a social function. Quite the opposite, they do provide some incentives and are a pretty good way of distributing goods (if you can mange inequality they are certainly better than Soviet style bureaucracy). They, also (if you can manage market failures well enough) are probably the best way of maximising utility without unduly restricting liberty.

Yet I don’t think that it is strictly correct to say that they create wealth. It certainly would be wrong to say that they are the only way of creating wealth.

11 comments:

Neal said...

Terence,

I read Johann's interview. I guess I find Johann's logic rather bizarre. He supported the Iraq war to bring democracy to people where, by any sane reckoning, it was rather obvious to anybody with eyes, that a large segment of the society wanted theocratic, not democratic, rule - whether not theocratic with the seeming consent of the governed -. He interprets the Arab Israeli dispute as a group of people foisted upon Palestinians whom, he acknowledges - without considering the historical implications thereof - thought themselves part of the pan-Arab future (i.e. in terms of replacing the Ottoman Empire with an Arab Empire and not, as he asserts, in reaction to Jewish Zionists who expressly sought joint rule with these Arabs). He fails to appreciate that the 40% of Palestinian Arabs who are already Islamized are, by far, too many to allow the emergence of a Palestinian country alongside, rather than as a rival to, to Israel. He even goes so far as to support the ahistorical drivel of Norman Finkelstein whom, according to Johann, debunked Joan Peters. Not recognized evidently by Johann is that other writers have found substantial support for the vast bulk of what Peters writes, meaning that there is support for her contention that the presence of Jews in the Middle East did attract large numbers of Arab immigrants to what is now Israel.

Worst of all, he fails entirely to read Chomsky with a critical eye. A more telling understanding of Chomsky comes in connection with his support of Diana Johnstone who has worked diligently to downplay the massacre of Bosnian Muslims. The issue, whether one calls it massacres and displacement or, as the consensus view holds, a genocide (or, more accurately, attempted genocide), for Johnstone is that such occured while the US is the world's top power where the US interferes in any way in some other nation. As she explains (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5339299-103677,00.html )- and Chomsky would not doubt concur:

I believe that this intense attachment to a Manichaean view of the Yugoslavian conflicts stems in part from the disarray of the left in the 1990s. What did it even mean any more to be "on the left"? Eastern Europe, after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, provided the answer: the new threat was "nationalism". It was a short step to being convinced that the worst of all evils was Serbian nationalism, and that the proof of being on the left was the degree of indignation expressed in its condemnation.

This attitude, as well as emotional involvement on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims, led numerous writers to minimise the role of other nationalisms in Yugoslavia, notably Croatian and Albanian nationalism, and to overlook the harmful effects of German and United States interference. This interference culminated in the 1999 Nato war, which was justified by a series of extravagant analogies (Bosnia likened to the Holocaust, Kosovo likened to Bosnia). It set the precedent for the United States to wage war in violation of the national sovereignty of weaker countries as a method of achieving political change.

This is a much greater threat to the world than Bosnian Serb nationalists, however brutal their behaviour in the mid-1990s. I believe that this is our primary political responsibility as citizens of the United States and of Britain.

One might ask how Chomsky and company would have reacted, had they been alive and had they held the same views, to the US intervention into Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Far more extensive intervention in these adventures than into Bosnia. And, one might ask what might have been had the US stayed home and left matters to the Europeans and the Bosnians and Serbs to sort out.

Well, I think Johann misinterprets all of Chomsky, reading him as subtle when, in fact, Chomsky is an ideologue who, as I see, distorts facts, quotes people entirely out of context, ignores the inconvenient, etc., etc. and fails, when it is convenient, even to examine what lay behind the public record he quotes.

Terence said...

Neal,

Just breifly.

I didn't support the invasion of Iraq, but I think it is wrong to say that the Iraqis prefer theocratic to democratic rule. If this is the case why do large numbers of them keep voting in elections? Remember that voting for a religious party is not the same as rejecting democracy.

Regarding the Palestinians being pan-arabist. Yes but so? As I've mentioned before I really don't care whether they considered themselves Arabs or Smurfs before 1948; what matters is self determination. Along with the fact that they've had huge swathes of their land taken from them, time and time again. And this keeps happening, and they keep living in appauling conditions. Something that Israel could do much to mitigate if it just pulled back to 1967 borders. I write this as someone who supports Israel's right to exits as well as its right to self defence. But none of these rights would be reduced if the Israeli government was willing to offer a settlement that was in any way fair to the Palestinians. I'd even accept a seperation wall if it was built on Israeli terratory. As for 40% of Palestinians being Islamist, yes but 60% aren't and, in my mind, the best way to fight the rise of Islamisim is to improve conditions in the occupied terrortories. Funnily enough, regardless of religion (and the Isreali Arabs are proof of this) the vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives, and not blow things up. All that is required is a life for them to get on with. Something that the prison camps Palestinian people currently live in do not offer.

As for Chomsky - I think that it is pretty unfair to say that Johann reads him "uncritically" he simpyl doesn't reject everything Chomsky writes off hand - which seems sensible to me.

(PS feel free to reply but this will be the last reply form me as I have to get some work done).

Neal said...

Terence,

If you want people to post on your site, you have to engage them. You, once again, have not read what I wrote with any care. And worse, you prefer to cut off debate. So, why should I respond? And, I might add, to what end should I read your blog?

I do not get your attitude. Johann, who worked for a paper, found time to respond to posts. Is your time more valuable?

Feel free not to post this comment.

Terence said...

Hi there Neal,

Sorry if I offended you. For what it's worth I thought I engaged with your comment. I pointed out that I think it is wrong to suggest that Iraqis are unfit for democracy and I noted that your point about pan-arabism is besides the point. I also pointed out that it is wrong to say that JH is uncritical of Chomsky (go to his website and read all the rude things he says about Chomsky).

True my response was hasty; and true Johann devoted much more time to debating with you. I suspect this is because he is (a) smarter and more knowledgable than me and so can do it quicker and that (b) he is not cippled by a debilitating illness as I am.

For what it's worth I woke up this morning exhausted (thanks to a night of sleep interrupted by pain)checked my emails and read your original comment; and replied to it then quickly. I couldn't devote more time to it because I am paid by the hour for my work (and obviously I don't charge for time debating on the internet) and I knew from experience that I only had a few good hours of work ahead of me before back pain and exhaustion put me out for the day. And I need to earn money to pay the rent. Not to mention the fact that my professional pride makes me want to complete my current task on time.

Accordingly, I didn't have any more time to devote to replying to you. Indeed, as time is precious I should really turn off the comments facility on this site so I am free of the temptations of internet debating. But I do quite enjoy reading the occasional comment that is posted here.

I appreciate that my last comment about not posting any more on this thread was a little curt and I am sorry for that: it was written as a promise to myself (as odd as that seems) so I could concentrate on getting work done.

Enough from me. Feel free to continue to read this blog or not. Feel free to comment or not. When/if you do comment I will do my best to respond. By you'll have to accept (as I have had to, to my great frustration, every day since I got ill) that my best may not be good enough. Or at least up to the standards expectable from other people.

Neal said...

Terence,

Apology accepted. I hope that you overcome your illness.

You write, in your first post: If this is the case why do large numbers of them keep voting in elections?

Well, voting and democracy are not one and the same, as you no doubt know. The groups that voted in large numbers, Shi'a and Kurds, had there reasons for voting. In the case of the Kurds, they are pushing for their program for independence from Iraq. For the Shi'a, it is to gain power. The Kurds, were they to gain independence, might opt for a form of democracy. The Shi'a are voting on the assumption of one vote, one time in order to gain and keep power.

You write: As I've mentioned before I really don't care whether they considered themselves Arabs or Smurfs before 1948; what matters is self determination.

You missed the point. Pan-Arabism was not for self-determination. It had nothing to do with Jews or Zionists at all. If I might be a bit bold, I would recommend a rather good book to you, The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus, by Vahakn N. Dadrian. While what happened to the Armenians is rather extraordinary, the book provides you with a rather good backdrop - which is my goal here - in which you might come to appreciate the significance of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the power which ruled most of the Muslim regions since the 14th Century. Pan-Arabism grew up out the collapse of that empire and the need to replace it with something else. Anti-Zionism was a later add-on as Zionism interfered with the idea of one Arab state for the entire region.

I also note: at the time that pan-Arabism came into being, the notion of an independent Palestinian state would have been offensive to most Palestinian Arabs. To Muslims, such violated basic tenets of Islam - which dictated toward the establishment of a multi-ethnic political entity of the types that had ruled Arabs and other Muslims since the time of the Abbasids.

I suggest Dadrian because he is a renowned scholar, his book is meticulous and scholarly and he provides an appropriate backdrop by which you can bring yourself from the 19th Century forward, rather than, as your comment suggests, project notions onto Palestinian Arabs which, in fact, they never would have imagined.

Now, the issue for Palestinian Arabs today is, as you say, autonomy. I do not disagree with that. The issue, however, is how one might achieve that and reconcile it with Israel's legitimate rights.

Next you write: And this keeps happening, and they keep living in appauling conditions. Something that Israel could do much to mitigate if it just pulled back to 1967 borders.

Well, on the first point, you are factually in error. The appalling conditions are the result of the Intifadah. Prior to that time, the conditions for Arab Palestinians were higher than in the surrounding Arab states and well on their way to parity with Israel. You will note that economic growth in the territories, until the time of the Intifadah, was among the highest, if not the highest, on Earth. Universities, for the first time, were established in the territories, again, under Israeli rule. Life expectancy also grew to standards comparable with Israelis. So, in fact, your statement is based on a false premise. One need only travel a few miles outside of Israel to see what life was like for Palestinian Arabs in the territories before Israel's rule began. I might also add that the UN still ranks the overall living standards in the territories higher than in Syria.

Now, Israel is never going to return to the Green line. The world, by means of UN 242, promised Israel that such a return would not be required. Such is why the Arab governments all rejected UN 242 when it came into being. And, if you read the UN debate on the subject, you will find that the USSR complained bitterly that by rejecting its proposal, Israel would not have to return to the Green line. Israel insisted on keeping part of the territory so that it would not have to face an army that might cut the country in half (i.e. because Israel in its narrowest place, is only 9 miles wide). Israel's position was supported in the UN by the US and the UK and the other parties which voted for the compromise language which, as explained by the British ambassador, was intended to accomodate the Arab goal to have territory returned and the Israeli goal to have secure boundaries and an end to the conflict. Secure boundaries meant boundaries other than the Green line.


You write: As for 40% of Palestinians being Islamist, yes but 60% aren't and, in my mind, the best way to fight the rise of Islamisim is to improve conditions in the occupied terrortories.

Well, the rise of Islamism occurred as living standards were improving, not declining. Islamism is also on the rise in rather wealthy Saudi Arabia, among other places. In Europe, which by any standards, is well off, Islamism is also on the rise, even among well to do Muslims. In fact, the leaders of the Islamists are mostly well to do and well educated.

My view: your theory on the topic makes no sense. There is something of a religious revival among Muslims that has spread rather evenly all accross the globe. The revival is not limited to Israel's captured territories. The same can be found in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Saudi Arabia, in Germany, in France, in Britain.

The phenomena relates to status, not to wealth. If you read Dadrian's book, you will begin to understand how important the notion of status is to Islam. The current movement among Muslims - i.e. the Islamist movement - is dedicated to the restoration of privileges lost to history. It is a deeply reactionary movement and arises not so much out of economic depravation but, instead, out of notions that Muslims, not Westerners, properly should hold the commanding heights of world and social power.

Now, in fact, the likely reason the Israelis and Palestinians cannot come to terms is the religious revival. The belief system which that revival entails does not permit peace with infidels, especially in territory (i.e. Israel as a whole) considered by Muslims to be part of the House of Islam.

As for Chomsky, you are entitled to your opinion. I, however, think he is a phoney.

Terence said...

Hi Neal,

Thanks for your comment. As it is rather substantial, I will try and have a crack at responding to it in the weekend.

cheers

Terence

Terence said...

Hi Neal,

hhhmmmm...actually I probably won't reply to your comment this weekend as I will be travelling to Fiji (and I'll be working there for 9 days) I will do my best to engage with it when I get back though. In the meantime you can help me with something...I have to confess I really don't understand your point about Palestinian pan-arabism and its relevance to the debate over Palestine/Israel.

Could you please start your response along these lines: "The fact that many Palestinians had pan arabist sentiments around the time of the founding of Israel, justifys their on going represssion, and the fact that much of their land has been stolen from them, because..."

cheers

Terence

Neal said...

Terence,

I am not going to buy into your formulation. I am going to provide a different model for you to consider.

Going back to the time when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, Arabs, including those you call Palestinians, saw themselves as Muslim and Christians, not as Palestinians. Now, you are fond of saying to me that such does not justify how Palestinians live today. On that point, I agree entirely. However, it is not irrelevant to how things stand today as religion, particularly Islam as determiner of societal privileges - as I shall explain -, is the main reason the dispute will not settle in our lifetimes.

Start with the obvious. Muslims in the Ottoman Empire lived privileged lives with reference to any other group. More than that, such was the law established by the Empire and such law was in accordance with Muslim law - in place since around 800 to 900 AD -.

The collapse of the Empire brought an end to these privileges and, quite frankly, a great deal that goes on today in the Muslim regions has to do with efforts by Muslims (e.g. by the Muslim Brotherhood) to re-establish privileges lost in history (i.e. with the decline of Muslim military power) but - and this is critical - demanded by the then known (and still believed in and still dominant) versions of Islam - pretty much all of the sects except for Sufism -. Such privileges are set forth in all four major schools of Islamic law - about this there is no doubt -. Among the privileges set forth in Islamic theology and law are that Muslims must rule and in accordance with Islamic law and that all non-Muslims must play a subordinate role to Muslims in society.

Frankly, without considering the implications of Islamic theology and law, you simply cannot begin to understand what has occurred in the Muslims regions since the fall of the Ottoman Empire including among Palestinian Muslims. Which is to say, the Muslim issue with Israel is not - whether or not there is also injustice involved - primarily about justice or injustice in any universal sense of the word. It is about privileges defined and required by religion.

Now, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire brought an end to all of the privleges. This is because Muslims ceased being the rulers and, further, Europeans actually insisted that non-Muslims be treated as equals. That was a new thing for Muslims, with nearly no precedent, historically speaking, other than in connection with the Tanzimet reforms demanded by Europeans in the 19th Century.

The Tanzimet reforms, by the way, were forced on the Ottoman Empire. The reforms demanded included the obligation that courts take the testimony of non-Muslims against a Muslim, that non-Muslims be allowed to be in the military, that non-Muslims be allowed to wear the same clothing as Muslims, that non-Muslims be treated as equal by the government and not have to pay a tribute tax called the jiyze.

These reforms were despised by Muslims and were implimented in name but, in much of the Empire, not in substance. And, where implimented, there were sometimes massacres on a large scale committed by Muslims in order to prevent non-Muslims from exercising these rights. Muslims thought these reforms were an attack on Islam itself. In what is now Lebanon, 30,000 Maronites were butchered. In Ottoman Armenia, in 1894 - 96, decades before the genocide, 250,000 Armenians were massacred. Abdul Hamit, the Sultan and Khalif, thought it better to eliminate all Amermenians than to grant them equality. So, consider this is a real issue with implications wherever there is Muslim rule but non-Muslims seek equality.

Now, the break up of the Ottoman Empire established the reforms as the Christian French and the Christian British insisted and held power.

Now, the idea of Arab nationalism, deemed pan-Arabism, was to restore an Arab empire. Christian Arabs initially joined with Muslims, on the theory that as Arabs - rather than mere Christians - they might have a better chance of equality from the Muslim majority. In fact, the persecution and loss of rights for Christians has, at this point, become nearly absolute except in the most radical of pan-Arabist governments (e.g. Syria) as all of these countries, without European rule, have implimented, slowly but surely, laws that resemble, more and more, what existed before the Europeans established more egalitarian rule. Which is to say, if you examine places like Egypt or Pakistan or Iran, among others, the non-Muslims in all of these places live lives of the type of desperation you ascribe to Palestinian Arabs.

To examine Israel and not understand that most of the reason for the fight against Israel is not Israeli behavior but the fact that Muslims are seeking to restore their privileges is to miss the main story. In the actual atmosphere which exists, there is no easy solution to the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The fact is that the Israelis really are not in a position, short of migrating elsewhere, to give the Palestinian Arabs what they want as the Palestinian Arabs and, most especially the Muslim Palestinians Arabs, want to rule over everyone else and in accordance with Muslim law. I know, HAMAS only has about 40% support. In that HAMAS opposes democracy on principle and the PA is, itself becoming more Islamic with time anyway, the future for both Christians and Jews, if the Muslims have their way, will be no future.

In this regard, note that millions of Christian Arabs have already fled the region due to persecution by the Muslim majority which demands privilges.

Now, my initial reason for noting the rise of pan-Arabism before was not to address the present circumstances faced by Palestinian Arabs but, instead, to address why they, back in 1917, would have been violently opposed to a state for themselves. In that regard, Johann's rendition of history is based on a fantasy that assumes a world which would have found his notions insulting.

One last point: a critique by a Marxist thinker might reach rather similar conclusions to the ones I reach. However, most Marxists are too lazy to apply analysis to Muslim society and opt, instead, for the lazy theory that what ails the Muslim regions is only what is imposed from outside. These thinkers - too good a word for them - entirely ignore the ruling ideology that has governed these areas for over a millennia and the impact that such way of thinking, pushed in religious institutions to this day, has on people.

Neal said...

Terence,

One brief point. I am not saying that the Ottoman Empire existed back to 800 to 900 AD. I am referring to Islamic law existing that far back.

Terence said...

Hi Neal,

I’m back from Fiji and have had time to consider your post relatively fully.

I don't entirely disagree; but there are elements in your analysis which are profoundly flawed.

Firstly, while you are correct that, in the Middle East, Muslim majority populations have treated minority groups within their borders poorly, you seem to be implying that this is a purely Muslim phenomenon. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Almost anywhere in the world (be it China, Sri Lanka, Europe, Rwanda, the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Israel, Chile, Australia, New Zealand) the moment that protections of human rights have been removed, minority groups have been treated atrociously; indeed, until recently, at certain points in history Muslim nations had a much better record with respect to certain minorities than did Europe at the same time (although there was still much to be desired in their actions). While this may seem to be beside the point, I think it is important to note here, because, in my mind, it is far easier (but still immensely difficult) to get people to adhere to the basic principles of human rights than it is to give up their religion or cultural identity. Moreover, in Europe and the rest of the world there are plenty of examples of Muslim groups that are pro human rights.

Secondly, you confuse Islam with Islamist; while I agree with you that for most Islamists there is no middle-east settlement leaving any remnant of Israel that is acceptable to them; I think that they are not in the majority in the region (they certainly aren’t in Palestine). To be honest, I am inclined to believe that for the majority of people in the region – even those who harbour some latent racism – the primary concerns in their lives are earning a decent living and taking care of their family. When given this opportunity, I think that they are unlikely to want to blow themselves up. As always my evidence for this is the Israeli Arabs.

Thirdly, you note at various points that the revival of Islamism in the region is not the result of poverty but rather of a yearning for a revival of lost status. In response to this I refer to you my earlier post on Timothy Garten-Ash’s formulations on the rise of Islam and our subsequent debate. I think I said everything I need to then. (In short, the rise of Islamism to me seems to be something fuelled by poverty, combined with a rejection of western values, as well as being a (very flawed) reaction to perceived injustice.)

Fourthly – and this is the main part of my response - while the problems of Israel/Palestine are vastly difficult, I don’t think that they are at all unsolvable as you suggest. What is required is that Israel pull back to 1967 borders, allowing a viable Palestinian state to form. In doing this it will take much of the heat from the Islamist fire, at least in the occupied territories as Palestinian people will be able to work, travel and the like without endless border crossings etc. Maybe it’s true, as you suggested, that Islamism was on the rise even when living standards were on the rise too. However, it is rising much, much faster now and – even before the first Intafadah (sp?) – the Palestinians were denied significant rights such as the right to vote. For these reasons along with the Palestinians long history of not being Islamists I still belief that the best way to fight an idea is via improving material conditions as well as protecting human rights and human dignity. It is also worth noting that, even now, Hamas has only been able to rise politically by moderating their tone on Israel and conflict (moreover, much of their rise has been in response to the corruption and absence of social service provision by Fatah). Sadly, of course, no matter what Israel does, there will remain some Islamists, but simply by rebuilding the security fence (on Israeli land this time) their threat could in the short-term be reduced, while – in the long term – their impetus would be disarmed by better living conditions etc as I have noted above. Also, sadly, there will remain anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for a long time to come; but given that Israel has by far and away the best army in the region and given that they have nuclear weapons, the conventional military threat to Israel is not high. It’s true that something like the Iranians getting the bomb might raise this threat, but I don’t see how the continued persecution of Palestinians will reduce the Iran factor in any way. Along these lines, I also take your point the 9km neck between Palestinian territories making Israel militarily vulnerable; although I’m not so sure of its practical significance given that Israel has peace treaties with most of its neighbours and given that Israel has won wars when fighting while limited by that neck. However, even if it were a real issue then it could be solved by Israel and Palestine exchanging some of the land there for land at the northern end of the west bank or something like that.

For all these reasons I disagree with your formulation. Although I will add one caveat: I don’t know what the heck to do about the right of return….

I’ll try and write more latter, depending on how many of my other tasks I get through.

Cheers and happy festive season

Terence

Neal said...

Terence,

Thanks for your long and well considered, although in my view dangerously incorrect, argument.

The key, from the Arab side, is the placement of refugees and their offspring into Israel. According to President Clinton, it was the only sticking point which prevented settlement of the dispute in December of 2000. The Palestinian side did not, despite what you claim, care whether the Israelis returned to the Green line as the difference between what President Clinton proposed and what was the Palestinian demand was less than 3% of all land claimed,at least officially, by Palestinians while, in fact, the Israelis agreed to terms which rendered the land more viable than it would be on your proposal to return to the Green line.

Which is to say, I think you are factually off base.

As for the rise of Islamism: it is something that is on the rise throughout the Arab regions, as much in places that are well to do (e.g. Saudi Arabia) as in impoverished places like Egypt. I note, if you investigate how Palestinian Arabs lived until around 1990, that they earned, on average, between 20% and 45% of Israelis, depending on how you count income. That places them at the top, income wise, among all Arabs in the Arab regions. Islamism found root in that community so, frankly, your comment does not make much sense. Moreover, during the 1980's, the Palestinian areas included a strong Islamist element, on a par with or more so than in most other Arab regions, so I think your view is simply contradicted by the facts. I note that the Muslim Brotherhood had roots in what is now Israel before it had roots in most of the rest of the Arab regions.

During the 1990's, there was a substantial decline in living standards, particularly after Arafat came to power. However, his administration is only maybe 80% responsible. The rest had to do with Israel separating itself from the Palestinians (i.e. bringing in guest workers from other countries), which was part of the Israeli goal to form a separate Palestinian state. Some claim it was a response to "checkpoints" but if one is to be honest, it must be noted that the checkpoints came into being as a response to violence.

Now, as for the supremacist ideology, you are correct that such is not unique to Muslims. It is, however, the case that Islam teaches the very supremacy as a central element of the faith. It has long roots. There is nothing similar in liberal democracies including ones, such as Israel, which are "ethnically" based. That is to say, there is discrimination in Israel but there is no ideolgoy that precludes Arabs from a playing central role in society. Such, you will note, was part and parcel of the original Zionist ideal of building a country with, not in place of, the Arabs. I think the discrimination which exists has 3 or so roots. 1. the dispute that exists, 2. the tendency of people to see others as different and 3. the cultural/educational differences between Jews and Arabs (and - with respect to education -, in this, I note, that Jews have won about 20% of all Nobel prizes while Arabs have not even won 1%) so there is bound to be a substantial amount of snobbery, feelings of cultural superiority, etc.

Last point: you claim that Islam and Islamism are different. In that I think that is a gross exageration, with Islamism merely being an attempt to revive classical Islam under modern conditions, I suggest you tell me the differences. I think you will find there are very, very few and none that much matter.

What you might more accurately say - and you hinted at this - is that most Muslims, like most everyone else, want just to get along. I certainly believe that to be the case. On the other hand - and this is the point -, a sufficiently large number of Muslims take the religion in its classical sense seriously enough to make settlement nearly impossible.

As for the notion that Hamas has moderated its tone, that is simply incorrect. There have been propaganda reports so claiming - especially in the notorious inacurate British press -. The reality is that Hamas' influence is on the rise because there is complete chaos under what is left of the PA, the PA is corrupt and fighting has broken out between its various factions, particularly of FATAH (with much blood spilt). Hamas has filled the vacuum.

I note, for what it is worth, that in societies which have no serious democratic tradition, it really does not matter what the majority wants. The question is what the majority will prevent from occurring. Not to make too much of an analogy but Hitler never had anywhere near a majority supporting him. He managed to control society with, frankly, only a small group of fanatical followers.

Groups like Hamas are able to force their will on society because they are violent and fanatical. They can control the majority so long as the majority is unwilling or unable to stand up to them. In that Hamas sounds notes which are traditional for Muslims, it is nearly impossible for the average Muslim to stand up against their agenda because, in classical Muslim theology, Hamas is doing the correct thing. In this regard, I suggest you read some detailed books about Islam and its territorial aspects, as understood both historically and theologically. The issue is also that Hamas uses sufficient violence against its opponents so as to render many of them mute, at least on Hamas' central agenda regarding Israel.

I might add that there has been a mass exodus of non-Muslims from all over the Arab regions including from PA held territory. Such people are not fleeing due to Israel but due to the re-introduction of classical Muslim rules regarding non-Muslims living in Muslim countries.

I shall repeat what I have said a number of times. Muslim law, deemed by traditionalist Muslims to be infallible and based directly on Allah's word as understood by classical Islamic theolgoy, so far as the treatment of non-Muslims is concerned, is rather worse than apartheid. While, in pre-modern times, Muslims may have, in some (but far from all) instances, treated non-Muslims better than Europe treated non-Christians, that was not universally the case. In some regions - and over the course of long periods of time -, Muslim rule was a lot more harsh on non-Muslims including, most especially, Christians, particularly in Southern Europe under Ottoman rule. In fact, it was as bad as the treatment, at any time, of Jews in Europe. Jews, for what it is worth, were better treated than Christians, by and large, under Islamic rule over the course of most of Islamic history. But, once Jews are removed from the consideration, Muslim rules is as bad or worse than Christian rule.

I mention this point about the treatment of non-Muslims because the notion of congenial relations, which your remarks suggests you might believe to be the case, is ahistorical and untrue. The truth is that the notion of tolerance, as we understand it, had little to do with how non-Muslims were treated under Muslim rule. The Muslims were not uniquely cruel but they were cruel rulers. The point becomes very clear if you read how Christians, not Jews, were traditionally treated under Islam.