August 23, 2004

The March of Folly

This past week we have witnessed the universality of folly. In Iraq Moqtader Al Sadr, that murderous political fanatic with the blood of the saintly Al Khoei on his hands, continues to defy everyone except his own armed thugs. They have hijacked holy places in pursuit of a purely political agenda (something hitherto only seen in Bethlehem). He stands in marked contrast to the saintly Al Sistani and he represents everything that is wrong with fanatical Islam today, putting his narrow and violent perspective and his pursuit of power before the requests of the other and more moderate Muslims both of Najaf and the rest of Iraq.

One can understand why Saddam Hussein suppressed his family and perhaps how that oppression was responsible for turning him into the very antithesis of Islamic spirituality he is, another example of an extremist holding everyone else up to ransom. The only response is to call his bluff and rid the country of him.

In a similar, if less violent, vein the corrupt fanatics of the Likud party in Israel have tried the same tack in Israeli politics. The vast majority of the electorate want peace, are prepared to make certain concessions and want to withdraw from Gaza. The Likud hardliners who last week voted against Sharon twice are set against the practical policies of their own Prime Minister. Likud is the heir to Herut, the part of Menachem Begin. He was just as right-wing as they, but he, remember, met Sadat, withdrew from Sinai, and uprooted Israeli settlements. Likud, which has been shown to be even more corrupt than the average political party, has every right to pursue policies that will lead to its none-too-soon demise. But Sharon should call their bluff!

If Sharon calls an election he will be defeated. Not because the majority of the Israeli electorate does not support him, but because the electorate will punish Likud for holding it to ransom. Sadly, there is no one on the left of any substance. Peres is old and discredited. The next biggest secular party, Shunui, has shown itself be just as two-faced, corrupt, and ineffective as all the others. There is no natural leader of the left or even the center.

I never much liked Sharon, but he seems to be the only guy around at the moment who is prepared to act and stick his neck out. A bit like Tony Blair Lehavdil!

So if an election would only increase chaos at least he should stick to his guns and ignore the pathetic second-raters who surround him in his party.

Down with extremists! We of the silent majority must stop being silent.

It was the historian Barabara Tuchman who wrote about "The March of Folly". Sadly, religion seems only to increase the pace.

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