Two significant Middle Eastern events transpired on June 30, 2012. In Israel former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir passed away at the age of 96. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi became the fifth President of the Arab world’s largest country at the age of 60. In the sovereignty of God, these two personalities and all that they represent had an unintended meeting on this date on the pages of history – one moving off the stage of international politics, the other stepping up to the plate.
From Polish shtetl to Israeli bricklayer
In 1915 Yitzhak Jeziernicki was born to parents Shlomo and Perl in the small Polish town of Ruzhany, then part of the Russian Empire. His father ran a small leather factory in the predominantly Yiddish-speaking municipality. Yitzhak attended a Hebrew high school in Bialystok, joined Vladimir Jabotinsky’s Betar youth scouting movement, and soon after moved to Warsaw to study law (where Menahem Begin was then completing his own law degree).
In 1935 Yitzhak opened up a Warsaw newspaper to see an announcement of the impending visit to Poland of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels. Yitzhak asked himself, “What are you doing here? Poland is lost.” So at the age of twenty he cut short his law studies and took a steamer to the British Mandate of Palestine, where he worked first as a bricklayer and then as an accountant. His family would not be able to follow him a few years later, unable to come up with the £1,000 per head necessary for a visa.
On November 2, 1942 his father, mother and one sister were forced onto a train travelling to the notorious Nazi death camp Treblinka. His father managed to jump off the train, and returned to Ruzhany to seek shelter with Polish friends, who promptly stoned him to death. Shlomo’s wife and daughter were gassed in Treblinka. The other sister, her husband and children managed to flee the town for a pre-arranged shelter in the woods. They were murdered by a Polish friend who had helped build the shelter, and who then seized the family property.
After these events, Jeziernicki changed his family name to the Hebrew word Shamir, which means either a sharp stone which can cut steel, or a thorn that stabs. He would later comment (in an interview with Ha’aretz newspaper) that “the Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.” Avi Pazner, Shamir’s media advisor and present at the interview, tried to cover for his boss, saying “That was off the record.” “No it wasn’t!” insisted Shamir.
He was talking from his own experience. Though over a million Poles were involved in sheltering Jews during WWII, over three million Poles seized the property of their Jewish neighbors as they were being carted off to Nazi camps. For those interested in greater understanding of these phenomena, the following books by Jan T. Gross are recommended, “Neighbors: the Destruction of the Jewish Community of Jedwabne, Poland” (Penguin, 2001); “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz” (Random House, 2006).
Shamir said that he never missed Poland or dreamed of its countryside. For Shamir, Israel was the homeland he had envisioned as a child. Biblical heroes like Moses and David were the ones who “peopled his dreams.”
Underground warrior during the British Mandate
Shamir quickly joined the Irgun Tzvai Le’umi or Etzel, a Jewish underground group determined to expel the British Empire’s soldiers and to establish a Jewish state in the ancient homeland promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Irgun saw Britain as a colonialist occupying power, one which had looked with favor upon the establishment of a Jewish state in its Balfour Declaration, but which according to Jewish understanding then had perfidiously backtracked on its international commitments to the League of Nations, betraying the Jewish people’s national aspirations (www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/the_british_mandate/; www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php).
During (and also after) WWII British forces refused to allow Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler any access to the Jewish homeland, (www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005459; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliyah_Bet; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Exodus) and British military advisors (like Sir John Glubb; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bagot_Glubb) armed and trained Arabs armies – both regular and irregular forces – in their moves to wipe out an independent Jewish population in what was then called Mandatory Palestine.
In 1940 the Irgun underwent a split over whether or not to cooperate with the British during WWII. Shamir joined the Stern Gang (later known as Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for the freedom of Israel, or Lehi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehi_(group)) group which refused under any circumstances to cooperate with His Majesty’s forces, as long as British soldiers were blocking Jewish restoration to their land. Shamir was arrested twice and escaped twice – even from exile to Eritrea, and made his way back to the land of Israel. He became Lehi’s operational leader, taking on the operational code name of “Michael” in honor of anti-British Irish Republican leader Michael Collins.
Lehi believed that the British would only withdraw from their Palestine Mandate when the pain threshold got too high. To this end they targeted high British officials, including Sir Harold MacMichael, High Commissioner for the British Palestine Mandate, in a failed assassination attempt. They successfully assassinated Lord Moyne, British Minister Resident in the Middle East (the highest British official in the area), in November 1944.
Shamir later reminisced, “There are those who say that to kill (ed., a British officer) is terrorism, but to attack an army camp is guerrilla warfare and to bomb civilians is professional warfare. But I think it is the same from the moral point of view. Is it better to drop an atomic bomb on a city than to kill a handful of persons? I don’t think so. But nobody says that President Truman was a terrorist. All the men we went for individually … were personally interested in succeeding in the fight against us. So it was more efficient and more moral to go for selected targets. In any case, it was the only way we could operate, because we were so small. For us it was not a question of the professional honor of a soldier, it was the question of an idea, an aim that had to be achieved. We were aiming at a political goal. There are many examples of what we did to be found in the Bible – Gideon and Samson, for instance. This had an influence on our thinking. And we also learned from the history of other peoples who fought for their freedom – the Russian and Irish revolutionaries, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Josip Broz Tito” (Nicholas Bethell , The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle between British, Jews, and the Arabs, 1935–48 , page 278).
Daniel Gordis (Senior Vice President and Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem) has commented, “Are we foolish enough to imagine that the British relinquished their hold on the colonies because early colonial Americans signed petitions? American Revolutionary heroes knew exactly what Shamir and others knew: The British would leave when the costs became too high. The difference is that the American Revolution has the advantage of having unfolded centuries, rather than decades ago, so many of the disturbing details have been lost. But are we so naïve to imagine that there are not profound parallels and continuities between what unfolded in the 13 colonies in the middle of the 18th century and what happened in Palestine in the middle of the 20th? Ben-Gurion, Begin, Shamir, and their generation, like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and theirs, believed that freedom would come only with sovereignty and that sovereignty would come only with victory. No matter Labor or Likud, they all shared that belief – and they were all right” (www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/105259/israels-grittiest-founder?all=1).
As the United States of America finishes the celebration of its July 4th Independence Day, the reminiscences of Shamir the freedom fighter bear serious consideration.
I love Paris in the Springtime
Some years after Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948, Shamir was employed by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for ten years at its Paris office, at one point overseeing Operation Damocles – a cloak-and-dagger operation which targeted former Nazi scientists employed in Egypt. These German scientists were engaged in developing improved V2 rockets equipped with poison gas and targeted at Israel’s population centers (www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/targeted-killings-a-retro-fashion-very-much-in-vogue-1.117714).
Shamir later joined Menahem Begin’s Herut (later Likud) party, eventually becoming Member of Knesset (1973), Speaker of the Knesset (1977), Foreign Minister (1980) and Prime Minister (1983), succeeding Begin when he retired.
During his time as Knesset Speaker, Shamir refused to vote in favor of the Camp David Accords but abstained twice, believing that Begin was acceding too much tangible territory (the whole of the Sinai Peninsula, rich in petroleum resources) to Egypt (a country whose leadership and population harbored deep-seated animosity toward Israel) for an uncertain and intangible declaration of peace.
A recent editorial comment in the Jerusalem Post wryly supports Shamir’s position with the hindsight of history:
“Perhaps due to his selfless focus on doing what is right for his people, Shamir’s principled positions have stood the test of time. One example was his opposition to the Camp David Accord with Egypt. Shamir was not against negotiating a peace deal with Egypt. He understood the strategic importance of quiet on the southern border that even a cold peace with Cairo could bring. However, Shamir, like others on the Right at the time, felt the price Israel was paying for such a peace was too high. In light of Israel’s powerlessness to combat the anarchy that has taken hold in Sinai in the past year or so, one cannot help acknowledge Shamir’s well-founded worries regarding a complete Israeli pullout and wonder whether Menahem Begin could have reached a peace agreement with Egypt without compromising so much, thus placing Israel in a better strategic position to combat lawlessness in the peninsula” (www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=275934).
Shamir, Scuds and the Madrid betrayal
As Israeli Prime Minister, Shamir found himself involved in historic events in Israel and the Middle East. He ardently advocated the return of Jewish people from their Exile in Russia and the Ukraine (in spite of harsh opposition from former US Secretary of State James Baker; “A Turkey Hunt in Israel” www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/3209), as well as backing Operation Solomon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Solomon) to the hilt, a Mossad-run operation bringing over 14,000 Ethiopian black skinned Falashas (followers of Judaism) to Israel in a massive and secret airlift.
Shamir once commented to American Jewish youth that they need to understand that “man does live by bread alone” and that Jewish people need to “learn and understand Jewish history (and) the Bible … and reach the only conclusion: to come on aliyah (immigration) to Israel” (Zev Golan, Stern: The Man and His Gang, pp. 219-223).
Shamir cooperated with President George H.R. Bush’s high-pressure request not to respond to 39 Iraqi SCUD rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population during the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm, January and February 1991) in exchange for American promises of political understanding and cooperation that were never kept (see Broken covenant: American foreign policy and the crisis between the U.S. and Israel, Moshe Arens, Simon & Schuster, 1995).
Immediately after the Gulf War, Bush and Baker twisted Israel’s arm to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference. These talks established a U.S.-backed precedent for pressuring Israel to give up concrete physical territories captured in defensive wars in exchange for blithe and unenforceable Arab declarations of peace. Shamir was looking for “peace for peace” – Arab commitments to recognize a Jewish homeland and state, and not to shrink the Jewish state’s borders. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban spoke for many in Israel when he once described the 1948 Green Line cease-fire lines as Israel’s “Auschwitz borders” – meaning that a withdrawal to the 1948 lines would mean the death of Israel (www.mefacts.com/outgoing.asp?x_id=10191).
Peace, peace yet there is no peace
The Arab world was not prepared to recognize a Jewish state no matter what its borders were, and strategically saw the “peace process” as a way to whittle Israel down to size before crushing it in a surprise military attack. Shamir discerned this and had no interest in making the Arab world’s job any easier.
Noted Middle East expert Professor Gerald Steinberg comments:
“Shamir … saw no prospect of any significant agreements with the PLO, or with Syria, Iraq, and the other rejectionist Arabs. In Washington, Bush told Shamir that Israel could not maintain sovereignty over the West Bank indefinitely. In response, Shamir pointedly declared that Israel would never relinquish Judea and Samaria. At the same time, Ben Aharon declared that Israel would never negotiate on the basis of land for peace. For Shamir and the Israelis who supported him, Arab terror and warfare is seen as a continuation of the long history of efforts to destroy the Jewish people. (According to poll data, some 60% of Jewish Israelis believed that the ultimate Arab objective continued to be the destruction of Israel, despite the peace talks). From this perspective, the silence and even cooperation of the rest of the world in the face of Arab violence is evidence of the continuation of these basic attitudes towards Jews. Nothing Israel could do, short of committing national suicide, would satisfy this hostile world.”
“On this basis, Shamir had opposed the peace agreement with Egypt and the return of the Sinai, and now, formal negotiations, particularly in the form of an international conference, would lead to massive pressure from all sides to force Israel to give up more land and make other concessions. If Israel agreed, it would weaken national security, and if Jerusalem refused, Israel would be blamed for the collapse of the process. The Arabs, Shamir was convinced, had no interest in making peace with or accepting the legitimacy of Israel, and each of the proposals and efforts to begin negotiations posed a dangerous trap that could only lead to greater danger. Any process of negotiation was seen as a ‘slippery slope’, and once movement started, Israel would lose control, and be forced to make dangerous concessions. The status quo, in which Israeli maintained control over Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights, was least dangerous” (“A Nation That Dwells Alone? Foreign Policy in the 1992 Elections”; Professor Gerald Steinberg; http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~steing/election/elec92.htm).
A similar perspective is echoed in a recent Jerusalem Post editorial: “The Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords did not fail solely or principally because of a lack of willingness on Israel’s part. Rather, as Shamir feared, peace has been elusive primarily because Palestinians have consistently opted to turn to terrorism and to cling to extremist, Islamist ideology. The 2006 Palestinian election, won by Hamas, was the culmination of this process” (www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=275934).
In 1994, three years after the Madrid Conference and one year after the Oslo Accords, Shamir pointedly remarked that peace “was not in the picture and it is still not there as I write … while President Bush, President Gorbachev, Secretary Baker and I have all, in the meanwhile, left the stage” (www.timesofisrael.com/yitzhak-shamir-the-stubborn-embodiment-of-jewish-self-reliance/).
Daniel Gordis concludes, “For all the misgivings many now have about Shamir’s intransigence or his specific policies, part of his legacy is that Jews ought not to pretend not to know what, deep down, they know. Yitzhak Shamir knew what he had seen, both in Europe and then in the Arab world, and he knew what it meant. He was no less ambivalent about the Arabs than he was about the Poles and refused to vote for Begin’s peace treaty with Egypt. Presumably in deference to Begin, he abstained, but he made it clear that he thought Israel was paying far too high a price. Today, three and a half decades later, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Cairo and with Israel now missing the Sinai as a buffer, who was wiser?” (www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/105259/israels-grittiest-founder?all=1).
Muslim Brotherhood roots and fruits
Bob Dylan dryly whispers a warning in his song, “The Changing of the Guards” (© 1978, Special Rider Music), “Either brace yourself for elimination or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.”
In the words of the British punk band The Clash, the Arab Casbah is rocking, and the changing of the guard is what’s happening across North Africa and the Middle East. Street riots have raged across the Islamic world, and world media originally knighted them with a pop title “The Arab Spring.” Though initially headed by Facebook and Twitter-blogging young laptop-carrying Arabs, the initial “street fighting men” have given way to Islamist dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In each case the initial youth protest was subtly subverted, co-opted by Muslim Brotherhood politicians.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB, or in Arabic al-Ikhwan) is an Islamist organization calling for jihad or holy war against its enemies (which include Israel, America and all Western nations). Its official slogan is “Allah is (the Muslim Brotherhood’s) goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief” (see “Hurtling Through The Fog of War: A Messianic Perspective On The New Hamastan”; February 2006; www.davidstent.org).
Though spinmeisters in the Western world are desperately attempting to do drastic plastic surgery on MB’s strong jihadi features, al-Ikhwan’s goals are not hidden but are available to anyone with access to a laptop and the internet.
The Muslim Brotherhood, or Society of Muslim Brothers (Jama’at al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin) was founded in Egypt (1928) by Hassan al-Banna, a school teacher. Its original purpose was to unite Muslims against British domination through a return to an Islamic or shari’a state. After the British departed from Egypt, al-Ikhwan proclaimed that it would not compromise either with modern secular Arab societies or with military dictatorships. Egypt and Algeria – even Saudi Arabia – were less than purely Islamic in the Brotherhood’s eyes. From the Brotherhood perspective most Arab and Islamic states are diluted and adulterated, evil and in need of being overthrown. Only strict Islamic rule and the re-establishment of the Muslim Caliphate or khilafah is ultimately acceptable, in MB eyes.
Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qa’eda
The Brotherhood attempted to overthrow Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954. Their revolution failed, and many members were jailed in Egyptian concentration camps and severely tortured. Sayyad Qutb, a main Brotherhood theologian, was imprisoned, tortured and later executed in 1966. Qutb’s brother moved to Saudi Arabia and later became the mentor of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Eventually al-Zawahiri would become Osama Bin Laden’s chief deputy.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s the Muslim Brotherhood had links with the Nazis, including Himmler’s man in Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. It first established a Gaza cell, and in May 1946 set up a Jerusalem cell in the Sheikh Jarrakh neighborhood. Yasser Arafat joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952. Brotherhood members in East Jerusalem established a shadow organization in 1953 called Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation; www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hizb-ut-tahrir.htm) which today is a worldwide terror organization.
In the late 1970’s Brotherhood members established Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Al-Jihad al-Islami; also called the Islamic Jihad or the Jihad Group) led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Jama’at al-Islamiyya or al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group) led by the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman is now serving a life sentence in Florence Colorado for his role in directing the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1983, as well as for thwarted plans to bomb NY tunnels and bridges as well as FBI and UN headquarters. Both organizations’ primary goals have been to overthrow the Egyptian Government, to replace it with an Islamic state, and to attack American and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad.
Ayman al-Zawahiri was jailed in Egypt for his part in planning and carrying out President Anwar al-Sadat’s 1981 assassination. He was later released and went on to become Bin Laden’s deputy in al-Qa’eda. Muhammad Atef followed al-Zawahiri and was involved with him in planning and executing the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Ikhwan remains a force with which to be reckoned. And it has seized power in the Arab world’s strongest and most influential country. And its President Mohamed Morsi is currently seeking the amnesty and release of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, master planner of the first World Trade Center bombing n 1983 (www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/world/middleeast/morsi-promises-to-work-for-release-of-omar-abdel-rahman.html?pagewanted=all)!
MB strategies for Egypt and Israel
The strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood involve revolution where possible, but where it is not possible then the strategy morphs into a step-by-step process of incremental moves toward a shari’a state, a Muslim dictatorship (www.youtube.com/watch?v=reLigeHGKzE; www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/9367022/Nazir-Ali-How-Mohammed-Morsi-Egypts-first-Islamist-president-interprets-Sharia-law-will-be-a-crucial-test.html; www.theblaze.com/stories/the-koran-is-our-constitution-egyptian-president-promises-to-ignore-egyptian-constitution-for-the-sake-of-sharia-in-chilling-speech/).
When influence has grown to the point where enough Islamist consolidation has happened, persecution of dhimmi (second-class) Christians and Jews can be carried out openly, and jihad against non-Muslims becomes government policy. This is what has happened in varying degrees in Sudan, in Saudi Arabia, in Nigeria, in Indonesia, in Iran and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. This is the Islamist vision of a New Middle East, and what is happening this very day in Egypt is the initial fulfillment of many jihadi dreams.
Gaza’s Hamas is a self-declared arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas’ 1987 charter proclaims that “the Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin) …the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era” (Hamas Charter, Article Two; in www.acpr.org.il/resources/hamascharter.html and Raphael Israeli, “The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas),” Y. Alexander and A. M. Foxman (eds.), The 1988-1989 Annual on Terrorism (Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990), pp. 99-134).
Now Muslim Brotherhood forces control both Egypt and Gaza. The smuggling of advanced weaponry between the two forces, the coordination of intelligence and war strategy, the movement of Gazan terrorists into the Sinai from where they can attack Israel from Egyptian territory – all of these options have become present reality. The Egyptian front facing Israel is now buzzing with new activity and foreboding preparation.
Bob Dylan again reminds us in his same song, that “peace … will bring us no reward when her false idols fall.” Yitzhak Shamir’s concerns are fast becoming the concerns of the entire nation of Israel. Concerned friends of Israel throughout the world are also pricking up their ears and moving into an activist intercessory mode.
How can we pray?
- Pray for clarity and divine perspective for Israel’s leaders and population
- Pray for God to expose demonic strategies connected with the Muslim Brotherhood
- Pray for protection on Egypt’s Christian population, and salvation for all Egyptians
- Pray for the protection and salvation of the Jewish people and their armed forces
- Pray for revelation to come to Western leaders and for a removal of the spiritual veil that keeps them blinded about the threats of jihadi Islam
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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