Jerusalem Post (Israel), Feb. 20, 2003
By ELLI WOHLGELERNTER
Over the past decade, al-Qaida has been blurring the distinction between the US and Israel, so that the two countries are not seen anymore as “the big Satan” and “the little Satan” but are an equal enemy to Islamists, according to Reuven Paz, of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Speaking on Thursday at an international three-day conference on “Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in the Contemporary Media” being held at the Hebrew University, Paz said that al-Qaida and other radical Muslim groups have also blurred the distinction between Israel, Zionism, and Judaism, and Israelis, Zionists, and Jews. This obscuring of differences which has been happening since the 1991 Gulf War has led to the shaping of a new ideology within extremist groups.
“The key element in this theory is the word ‘conspiracy,’ ” Paz said at the conference, which was organized by the university’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, to mark the center’s 20th anniversary.
“This movement, and these doctrines, look at themselves as if they are surrounded by a global conspiracy, of an alliance between the Jews and the Western world. And if they are confronting a global conspiracy, their jihad is a war of self-defense they are not the attackers, they are attacked.
“Therefore there are no red lines in retaliation to this conspiracy, there are no limits. Everything in the framework of the counter war, of the counter jihad, is permissible. And these views are also backed by numerous scholars, intellectuals, and clerics all over greater parts of the Arab world.”
Another element that has contributed to the identification of Israel with the US, he said, is “occupation.”
Until 1991 there was only the perception of one occupation, that of Israel in the territories, though that was seen in the eyes of the Muslim world as being supported, if not promoted, by the US. Since 1991, the US was also seen as an occupier, in this case of Saudi Arabia, the most sacred land in the Muslim world.
Paz said the last year has seen al-Qaida become what he called an open university, a virtual al-Qaida that is using the Internet to disseminate its ideas, as have other radical groups.
“This is one big madrasa, which intends to become one global madrasa,” said Paz, and the tool is the Internet, which has become “the most efficient available means of spreading and distributing their messages, and the teachings of this open university…
“Everything is managed through the Internet. It’s very cheap, it’s very easy, it arrives in any house. And its use is not just in order to spread their messages, but there are, in my estimation, at least 100 Web sites of clerics, intellectuals, and scholars mainly those that belong to the Saudi Islamist opposition, those that look at Saudi Arabia also as a kind of infidel country and these Web sites give a whole block of support for this phenomenon, which is just growing.”