Monday, June 17, 2013

The "Sushi" is Heating Up

The "Sushi" is Heating Up by Mordechai Kedar
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The following article was written in Hebrew by Dr. Mordechai Kedar for
the June 14, 2013 issue of the Makor Rishon newspaper, and translated
to English by Sally Zahav.

The "Sushi" is Heating Up
by Mordechai Kedar

Among scholars of the Middle East, the term "sushi" is used as a
shorthand for the expression, "Sunni-Shi'a". Anyone interested in the
history of Islam knows that the seeds of the Sunni-Shi'a conflict were
planted the moment that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, closed his
eyes forever in the year 632 CE, without leaving a mechanism for
choosing a successor to lead the nation. The conflict that developed
as a result, has become an open, bloody battle over the years, and it
has been a thread in the fabric of Islamic history throughout all of
its 1400 years. This conflict has facets on many levels: personal,
familial, political and religious. The battle between the two factions
of Islam is "for the whole pot", and it continues to this very day.

In modern times, attempts have been made to bridge over the conflict
and to find common ground between the factions of Islam in order to
create a sense of calm between the factions, on the basis of which it
will be possible to manage states such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,
where the two factions live side by side, Shi'ites and Sunnis, in one
state. Even the Egyptian Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the
Mufti (religious arbiter) of the Emirate of Qatar, has expressed
himself both verbally and in writing about the need to find a way to
"bring the schools of thought closer together", as if Shi'a is another
legitimate school of thought, in addition to the four Sunni schools:
Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali. In the good old days they used to
call the Shi'a faction the "Jafari school" after one of the fathers of

The Golden Age between the Sunni and Shi'a was the year 2006, as a
result of the Second Lebanon War, when Hizb'Allah managed to create
the impression that it had won a "divine victory" over Israel. After
all, Hasan Nasrallah had survived despite 33 days of heavy Israeli
attacks, some of which were aimed at him personally. Hizb'Allah was
compared with the armies of the Arab countries, which had failed in
all of their attempts to destroy the state of Israel, and were
defeated by Israel's army in only six days in 1967. As a result of the
Second Lebanon War, Hasan Nasrallah declared in every public arena -
especially in his al-Manar ("the beacon") television channel - that
the victory belongs to the whole Arab and Islamic nation, and in this
way, he created for himself the image of being the only leader in the
Middle East who knows what to do and does the right things, ignoring
the objections of the infidel West and its paltry servants, meaning
most of the rulers of the Arab states. Bashar Asad declared that
Hizb'Allah's way is the only way to fight and the only method that can
defeat the Zionist enemy.

During the war in the summer of 2006, great crowds of people of the
Middle East erupted in emotional demonstrations where pictures of
Hasan Nasrallah were held high, and those who wanted to make a point
also carried pictures of Bashar Asad, the great supporter of
Hizb'Allah. It was convenient for everyone - including religious
figures such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi - to ignore the fact that
Hizb'Allah was a Shi'ite group, backed up by Iran, because if the
Sunni Hamas movement ended up in the same boat with Hizb'Allah what
evil could possibly have sprung from the Lebanese "al-Muqawama
wal-mumana'a" ("Resistance and Defense") movement, which supports all
of the "liberation movements" regardless of religious sect? The
al-Jazeera channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Sunni Muslim
Brotherhood movement, embraced Hizb'Allah and dedicated many hours of
positive programming to it, and in many Islamic societies - including
Israel's - more than a few people crossed over from the Sunni side of
Islam to the Shi'a. Only a small group of Saudi religious authorities
were not overcome by the waves of sympathy for Hizb'Allah. They always
view the Shi'ite dominance of Lebanon, as well as its influence on the
collective Arab discourse, negatively.

But the enthusiasm for Hizb'Allah has not survived the storm that has
been buffeting the Middle East ever since December 2010, known
romantically in the media as "the Arab Spring", as if presently in the
Middle East, the birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the
flowers are blooming, the butterflies are fluttering, people are
smiling and there is an air of rising optimism. The vicious war that
has been raging in Syria since March 2011 has cost so far at least one
hundred thousand fatalities and many thousands of wounded, has made
millions of Syrians into displaced persons within their land and into
refugees in neighboring lands, and Hizb'Allah is totally engaged in
fighting this dirty war in support of the Asad regime. Information
about the involvement of Hizb'Allah in the fighting has been leaking
out for more than a year. At first they buried their fallen in
temporary graveyards in the Valley of Lebanon, near the border with
Syria, to avoid holding funerals in residential areas, thereby
disclosing Hizb'Allah's involvement in the events in Syria. Because
of the need for secrecy, the families of the fallen were forbidden to
observe rites of mourning and memorial services when the fighters

With time, the picture has changed, and Hizb'Allah can no longer hide
its involvement in the battles in Syria. In an effort to shore up his
popularity, Nasrallah tried to say that the Hizb'Allah forces were in
Syria only to defend a number of "Lebanese" villages, but some of
those who heard this story understood that Hizb'Allah was actually
defending Shi'ite villages from attacks by the Sunni rebels. This
story crumbled when faced with the reality that was reported by the
media, describing Hizb'Allah as an integral part of the Asad regime's
fighting effort. For the past year, public criticism of Hizb'Allah has
increased in the Arab world because of its involvement in the murder
of Syrians, and matters came to a head about a month ago, with the
attack on the town of al-Qusayr, which is located on the border
between Syria and Lebanon, and serves as a bridge for the transfer of
support, weapons, ammunition and fighters from the Sunni area of
Tripoli in Lebanon to the rebels in Syria. The rebels took control of
al-Qusayr about a year ago, which enabled them to drive a wedge
between the area of Damascus, the capital, and the Alawite area in the
northwest of the country. From the photographs and the reports of the
battle for Qusayr during the past month, it seems that it was
Hizb'Allah and not the Syrian army that was fighting for the town.

This bloody battle was the straw that broke the Sunni camel's back.
Since al-Qusayr fell into Hizb'Allah's hands, all the dams of
criticism have burst, and the religious authorities of Sunni Islam
have been attacking Hizb'Allah with their sharpest arrows of Islamic
rhetoric, tipped with deadly venom. The expression they use as the
name of the organization is "Hizb al-Shitan" - "the party of Satan" -
hinting at the passage from the Qur'an "The party of Satan are the
losers" (Sura 58, Verse 19), which is the opposite of the name "Hizb
'Allah" - "the party of Allah" - which is also based on the Qur'an
(Sura 5, Verse 56). In homilies given in the mosques and in the media,
Yusuf al-Qaradawi calls on all Muslims, male and female, to wage jihad
against Hizb'Allah in Syria, and openly accuses Hizb'Allah and the
Iranians of wanting to devour all of the Muslim countries. He accuses
them of being infidels and of hiding their true identity.

Qaradawi does not restrain his tongue. He speaks with contempt about
the change in the Syrian constitution that allowed Bashar Asad to
succeed his father in 2000 when he was 34 years old, despite the fact
that until then, the president was required to be at least 40 years
old. He even mentions the original name of the Asad family -
"al-wahsh" - which means "wild beast". Qaradawi calls on all the
Islamic sages of the world to gather in Cairo on Thursday of this
week, to discuss how to deal with the Shi'ites in general and Iran and
Hizb'Allah in particular, and to take decisions on the matter. He
views the ascent of Sunni Islam to power in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco
and Yemen as a blessing, in addition to Gaza, which he visited

Qaradawi clearly admits that he erred in 2006 about Hizb'Allah, and
was fooled by its religious appearance. Qaradawi praises the religious
sages of Saudi Arabia who even then, in the days of the Second Lebanon
War, were right about Hizb'Allah and did not fall into the trap that
Nasrallah had set for the Arab and Islamic world. He asked for pardon
and forgiveness from those sages for supporting Hizb'Allah against
their judgment.

But Qaradawi is not alone. When 1200 Kuwaiti jihadists were about to
leave Kuwait and go to Syria to join the jihad against Hizb'Allah, the
Kuwaiti Sheikh Shafi al-'Ajami encouraged them to slaughter their
enemy and asked the jihadists to save ten Hizb'Allah fighters for him
to have the pleasure of beheading personally.

Even Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic
movement in Israel, openly speaks against Hizb'Allah, which acts
against "our brothers" in Syria. It is important for us to remember
that "our brothers" to Sheikh Ra'ad Salah might be the Muslim
Brotherhood in Syria, but could also be the Palestinian refugees in
Syria, several hundred of whom were killed and injured in battles
between Asad and his opposition, and many thousands of whom fled to
Jordan and Lebanon.

In Iraq as well

The increasing tension between the Sunni and Shi'a takes its toll in
Iraq as well. In the month of May this year, more than a thousand men,
women and children were killed in Sunni attacks against Shi'ites, and
in revenge attacks of Shi'ites against Sunnis. The increasing tension
between the factions in Iraq has generated mutual declarations, each
side against the other: "You had better get out of Iraq before it is
too late", meaning before our knives separate your heads from your
shoulders. Iran arms and equips the Iraqi army as well as the Shi'ite
militias such as the Mahdi Army, while Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the
Emirates support the Sunni minority with weapons, ammunition and
funds. The "sushi" tension in the Land of the Two Rivers is increasing
and a conflagration resulting in an all-out civil war is apparently
just a matter of time.

And Lebanon

Many Lebanese object to the activity of Hizb'Allah in Syria because
they fear that the civil war will overflow from Syria into Lebanon,
and they will be its victims. This week the Sunnis held a
demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Beirut where the
demonstrators called on Iran to bring Hizb'Allah out of Syria. Armed
Hizb'Allah activists attacked the demonstrators with clubs and sticks
and beat one of them to death. The fighting continues in Tripoli in
the north of Lebanon between the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabana
and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are Alawite, and this week too,
people were injured there. About two weeks ago Grad rockets fell in a
southern neighborhood of Beirut, a Hizb'Allah stronghold, and all
signs point to a "sushi" heating up in the Land of the Cedars too.

There are reports that Hizb'Allah has demanded the Hamas movement to
take its people out of Lebanon because Hamas no longer supports

The Sunni-Shi'a tension might result in a conflagration in many
countries: Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, the United Arab
Emirates, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps even Turkey, which also
has a significant Shi'ite minority.

In Israel, we must take into account that in the Middle East the rule
"the enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not always work. Just
because the Sunnis and the Shi'ites relate to each other with
hostility and hatred, that doesn't result in love for Israel. In the
best case, it may lead to a short-term coalition between Israel and
Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, but we cannot
rely on such a coalition, because we are still the "Zionist entity"
which, according to Islam - Sunni and Shi'a alike - has no right to


Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar
of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the
director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam
(under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in
Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab
countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for
the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan
University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

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