“When Western [political] leaders, and that includes Israeli leaders, believe they can negotiate a way out with an entity that has deep religiously ideological roots, it’s wishful thinking,” analyst Elliot Chodoff explains.
Elliot Chodoff, a political and military analyst specializing in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terrorists, led a trip sponsored by Honest Reporting to the Syrian border, where he discussed, among other topics, the ideological foundation of Khomeinism and its impact on the behavior and goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
Chodoff gave the group a fascinating lesson in history and theology in order to demonstrate how much the West, including Western and Israeli scholars “who should know better,” have no idea how to incorporate ideology, particularly religious ideology, into their assessments of current events, often leading to significant policy errors. Muslim scholars, on the other hand – even those living in the West – have a much better understanding, he said.
The Birth of Radical Islam
The 20th century saw a dramatic radicalization of Islam, largely influenced by Pakistani scholar and zealot Abul A’la Maududi, who in the early 1900s began writing about the rise of Islam, which was once a great culture before its decline.
Abul A’la Maududi “was a vicious anti-Semite,” Chodoff said. “The idea of martyrdom was elevated by him as well. The aspiration to die as a martyr was central to a great deal of his thinking.”
He presented the Jews as antithetical to Islam because the Jews love life, Chodoff said. The Jews were painted as cowards because choosing life is central to Jewish thinking.
Influenced by Maududi but far more influential was Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maudidi died during the rise of the Nazis but Qutb lived through the Nazi era and incorporated Nazism into his writings, mostly done in the 1950s and 1960s.
“It wasn’t a great stretch. Radical Islamists didn’t learn anti-Semitism from the Nazis” and vice versa, Chodoff said.
(Amin Al-Husseini, who was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the time of the British Mandate is a perfect example of the Nazi-Islamist partnership. During World War II, Al-Husseini moved to Berlin, where he collaborated with the Nazis and was an associate of Adolf Hitler.
Al-Husseini was responsible for a Muslim SS division that murdered thousands of Serbs and Croats and was on Yugoslavia’s list of wanted Nazi war criminals. When the Nazis offered to free 5,000 Jewish children, Al-Husseini fought against their release, which caused 5,000 children to be sent to the gas chambers.)
‘Jews are First and Foremost’
Qutb preached Jihad. Many Islamic apologists have said that Jihadism is merely a struggle to improve oneself, Chodoff continued. But Qutb said clearly: There are those who say Jihad is an internal struggle to improve oneself; that is not true. Jihad is holy war.
Qutb, who “didn’t choose his terms randomly,” wrote a short piece titled, “Our Struggle With the Jews,” Chodoff said. “’My Struggle’ in German is ‘Mein Kampf.’ “How is Mein Kampf translated into Arabic? My Jihad. You see these connections?”
Moving on to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Chodoff said that “his impact was enormous on a number of levels.”
Khomeini was recognized as a world-class theologian among the Shiites, and his writings
in the 1960s and 1970s were considered seminal theological works. In the late 1960s, he gave a series of lectures that he ultimately published as a book, titled “Islamic Government.”
It was the first time that a serious Shi’ite theologian promoted the establishment of a Shi’ite government before the return of the Mahdi – “the Rightly Guided One,” a Messianic figure who, according to Islamic belief, will appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil and injustice.
Already on page 1, the second paragraph begins with the words, “The Jews have always been the enemies of Islam.”
Just to compare, Chodoff noted, it took Hitler 28 pages to get to the Jews in Mein Kampf. “The Jews are first and foremost for Khomeini.”
‘One of Greatest Unknowns in the West’
In Islamic Government, Khomeini “creates and develops an idea that he will put into practice 10 years later, after the Iranian Revolution, in which he says that a high-ranking theologian, once the state is established, shall become the Supreme Leader of all the Shiites in the world.
“Everyone thinks ‘Supreme Leader’ is just a political title. It is not. It is a theological political title that is meant to hold sway over all the Shiites in the world… Anyone who disobeys the Supreme Leader is in fact disobeying God.”
However, “an interesting thing happens. Not all Shiites buy it. This is one of the greatest unknowns in the West. Everyone talks about the Shiite-Sunni conflict. Nobody talks about the Shiite-Shiite conflict.”
This is why Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon, two Shiite organizations, periodically shoot at each other, Chodoff said. Amal doesn’t buy the Khomeini doctrine.
Hezbollah has had three leaders since its founding in 1982, and all three were clerics, Chodoff continued.
“Hezbollah is the only truly religious terrorist organization in the world. The leaders are not only religious, but religious clerics. Nasrallah and his predecessors all studied under Khomeini. So when orders or opinions come from the Supreme Leader in Tehran, it’s not a political order from a sponsor or a patron to a proxy…it’s not just some high-ranking official…
“We have a primarily, first and foremost, radicalized religion under a radicalized leadership that in the past few decades has translated theology into practice, turning a religious order into a military one.”
Therefore, “when Western [political] leaders, and that includes Israeli leaders, believe that they can negotiate a way out with an organization that has deep religiously ideological roots in saying the Jews must be eradicated, it’s wishful thinking.”
Furthermore, “it’s a reflection of Western-type thinking trying to be imposed on an entirely different thought process.”
Oppressed Pacifist Muslim Sect Lives Peacefully in Haifa
Chodoff cautioned against generalization when discussing followers of any religion, stressing the importance of commentary on text. For instance, regarding the biblical phrase “an eye for an eye,” there is no Jewish commentator who believes that the culprit should lose an eye.
Another example is the Ahmadi Muslim sect living in the neighborhood of Kababir in Haifa that “is totally pacifist, following the exact same Koran as Osama bin Laden did,” because they accept a different commentary.
“They are oppressed. They are virtually gone in the Middle East. They are oppressed in all the Muslim countries,” but “they live very happily in Israel.”
Chodoff was asked: If the carrot doesn’t work, and the stick doesn’t work, what is the solution?
“The short answer, he replied, is that “in the end, we have to fight.
“There are some people you simply can’t reason with. Can you reason with Hitler? Chamberlain tried. He even thought that he succeeded – for about five months…
“I wish I were wrong…Our tendency will always be to give it another chance.”
As for negotiations with Iran, he said, no problem trying “if it doesn’t put you in worse shape than when you started out.”
(United with Israel).