Not too long ago Bret Stephens published an article in the Wall Street Journal to which I replied here. It was soon thereafter reprinted in Commentary, and someone from Commentary contacted me and asked if I would make that blog post into a letter to the editor replying to his article. I did so, and it was published recently. I’m told that Stephens replied contemptuously and did not address the substantive points — but I have not seen his reply. In any case, I hope his response to this letter from David Yerushalmi of SANE is more positive.
“The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens has an epiphany?,” from SANE, January 13:
Dear Mr. Stephens:
I was literally at the edge of my seat when I read the title to your opinion piece this am: “The No-State Solution: Hamas cares more about Shariah than ‘Palestine.”
My immediate reaction was to ask if one of the main spokesmen for the WSJ”s editorial view had finally come to penetrate the barbwire PC that many, including the Muslim Brotherhood front organizations in the US, had laid down around a serious analysis of Shariah. The idea that Hamas, which was elected presumably on its concern for Palestinians qua Palestinians as evidenced by its focus on social welfare, was in fact far more dedicated to the broader telos and methods of Shariah, was for me a breakthrough of enormous proportions, especially coming from the WSJ which mindlessly promotes Shariah through Shariah-compliant finance.
Shariah, as the common enemy threat doctrine, unites the mujahideen from around the world””those committed jihad warriors and financiers who share no national or cultural ties, political or racial affiliations, or even common language other than the fundamentals of a theo-political-military jurisprudence””and remains the single most authoritative institution in Islam despite its lack of full state authority in most Muslim regimes. It was Hamas” commitment to Shariah which I sought to introduce in the Boim v Holy Land Foundation appeal before the full 7th Circuit in a brief authored for the Center for Security Policy. Hamas states quite clearly, as do all MB groups, that nationalism as expressed through political engagement is only a stage in the ultimate reunification of the Umma worldwide ordered politically via Shariah.
But then, with the greatest of disappointment, I read the piece, and while good enough, missed the Shariah connection almost entirely. I say almost because given the title the reader with some background might envision it with some effort between the lines. Unfortunately, you fell into the trap of most pundits and even experts who look upon the Muslim Brotherhood and the resurgence of Shariah through “Islamist” groups as a kind of revolutionary ideological movement or “ism” like the communist/Soviet one in the mid-20th Century. Indeed, most of these commentators point to the genesis of the MB in Egypt (Qutb) and Pakistan (Maududi) in the 1930s-1950s as evidence of this modern revolutionary bent.
The problem with this historical hypothesis, however, is the presence of facts. While the MB has taken on some of the language of the social revolutionary movements of the hard Left, it specifically renounces such secular causes and examines all of its own behavior through the studied and authoritative Shariah rulings of men such as Mufti Taqi Usmani, the long-time head of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Shariah advisory board. (If you don’t know of this sordid affair and the Dow Jones cover-up, ask your colleagues at the editorial desk.)
In fact, if you look deeper into the Hamas Charter and the writings of the leading polemicists and Shariah scholars of the MB groups, you will find a very strict correlation between Shariah and deeds. While many of the “experts” like to say the MB is a wholly different beast than al Qaeda, for example, they are wrong. Both groups are absolutely committed to Shariah; indeed, both groups adhere to Shariah’s goal of a one-world hegemony and the methods of dawa, dhimma, and jihad to achieve that end. They differ, however, in tactics. The former believes in a staged conquering where the political mujahideen must work within certain Kufr political regimes; the latter accepts no such intermediate goals.
Finally, let me say this. You are also terribly mistaken if you believe the majority of the Gazans and those in the Gush area (Hebron) are not fully committed to Shariah as their common cause. While Palestinians under Arafat were notoriously loose in the commitment to Shariah, this is almost entirely due to Arafat’s popularity but also due to the fact that he gave Shariah its due in political rhetoric. In fact, the West, and especially the US and even Israel, could not understand why it was that the PA and Fatah would not clamp down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the Peace Process days to finally break through the political-security stalemate that had developed over the years. Aside from Arafat’s own perverse calculations, which hardly anyone could fathom (which of course is how he stayed alive as long as he did), was the fact that he could not reject the Shariah these groups represented. They held the deepest recesses of the hearts and minds of the largest number of Palestinians because like most Muslims, even the non-observant, Shariah maintains its monopoly as the one single “true” force within the Muslim cultural, societal, and political worlds.
This last notion is of course not mine. “Scholars” like Professor Noah Feldman of Harvard (formerly of NYU) also speak to this institutional legitimacy. Unfortunately, men like Feldman opine mindlessly that Shariah can be used as a political and constitutional force for the “rule of law” while at the same time they dream that western democratic forces (the WSJ”s version of this is “free markets”) can tame Shariah. The problem with this dream-state is that many Muslim leaders and even Islamic religious figures have tried to tame Shariah over its 1200+ year reign, and they have utterly failed.
Alas, I have gone long-winded when I intended this am to pen a short email of pleasant surprise and ultimate disappointment. I hope you will forgive my over-indulgence in the brute facts few are willing to face. As a litigator, it is an occupational hazard.