We are in a war of symbolism

To Islamists the more important the symbolic nature of a Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or Hindu building or site of Western power, the more important it is to destroy it. That includes the Temple Mount, ancient Afghan Buddhas, the Twin Towers and more.

Howard Rotberg

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We are in a war of symbolism, not just a war on terrorism. Of course, the term, “War on Terror” is a defeatist term – this is not a war on terror, anymore than the Second World War was a war on tanks. Wars are against certain enemies, in this case Radical Islam or Islamism, and our inability to name the enemy is a symbol of impotence, clearly understood and appreciated by the enemy.

Such enemy treats the rest of the world’s symbols very differently indeed:

The Taliban in spring, 2001, decided to destroy ancient Buddhas somewhere in the desert in Afghanistan. They exemplified the belief prevalent in fundamentalist Islam that all religious symbols other than their own must be destroyed.

To the terrorists of 9/11, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were symbols of American power and influence and just had to be destroyed. But not only does the mainstream media not fully understand this, but the media has become the anti-establishment equivalent of the tattooed young person, whose anti-establishmentism knows few bounds. Dennis Prager, an important American conservative columnist wrote about the symbolic nature of American media in the age of George Bush:

“If an American interrogator of Japanese prisoners desecrated the most sacred Japanese symbols during World War II, it is inconceivable that any American media would have published this information. While American news media were just as interested in scoops in 1944 as they are now, they also had a belief that when America was at war, publishing information injurious to America and especially to its troops was unthinkable. Such a value is not only not honored by today's news media, the opposite is more likely the case.”

The mainstream media opposed the war in Iraq and loathed the Bush administration, but that was nothing compared to their loathing of President Trump. Says Prager, “Whatever weakens the effort to combat Islamism and embarrasses the president raises a news source's prestige among its domestic, and especially foreign, peers.”

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem has been a significant Jewish burial site for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, and for this reason is a symbol of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem
For that reason alone, the symbolic value, Arabs, during the loss of Jewish control of Jerusalem’s eastern areas to Jordan between 1948 and 1967, desecrated the grave stones.
throughout history. For that reason alone, the symbolic value, Arabs, during the loss of Jewish control of Jerusalem’s eastern areas to Jordan between 1948 and 1967, desecrated the grave stones. Even today, under Israeli jurisdiction, Palestinian youth like to sneak into the cemetery and desecrate the stones. The Jewish symbol of the grave stones is being fought by the Islamist symbol of destruction and anti-Jewishness.

In April, 2002, Palestinians seized an important Church in Bethlehem: the Church of the Nativity. On April 24th, the Jerusalem Post reported on the damage that the PA forces were causing:

“Three Armenian monks, who had been held hostage by the Palestinian gunmen inside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, managed to flee the church area via a side gate yesterday morning. They immediately thanked the soldiers for rescuing them. They told army officers the gunmen had stolen gold and other property, including crucifixes and prayer books, and had caused damage.... One of the monks, Narkiss Korasian, later told reporters: ‘They stole everything, they opened the doors one by one and stole everything....They stole our prayer books and four crosses...they didn’t leave anything. Thank you for your help, we will never forget it.’

When the siege finally ended, the PA soldiers left the church in terrible condition:

The Palestinian Arab gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity seized church stockpiles of food and “ate like greedy monsters” until the food ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They also guzzled beer, wine, and Johnnie Walker scotch that they found in priests’ quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. The indulgence lasted for about two weeks into the 39-day siege, when the food and drink ran out, according to an account by four Greek Orthodox priests who were trapped inside for the entire ordeal.... The Orthodox priests and a number of civilians have said the gunmen created a regime of fear. Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of disregard for religious norms.

Catholic priests said that some Bibles were torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were removed. “Palestinians took candelabra, icons and anything that looked like gold,” said a Franciscan, the Rev. Nicholas Marquez from Mexico, who had been locked up in the Church of the Nativity when the Palestinian Arab gunmen took it over.

To Islamists the more important the symbolic nature of a Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or Hindu building or site, the more important it is to destroy it. The pathetic attempts of the Arabs to negate the location of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and to prevent Jews from having access to it, because Muslims for symbolic purposes built a mosque on top of it, is just one instance world-wide, of Muslim conquerors building mosques on former churches or other destroyed places of worship. In this context we understand why the Muslim guardians of the Temple Mount allow some Jewish visitors, but do not allow them to pray, and even silent prayer, evidenced by the moving of lips, is forbidden.

Within that context, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could not understand that the plans for a 13 storey mosque on the World Trade Tower site, was not about religious freedom but rather religious and ideological symbols of supremacy and submission.

Similarly, American president, Barack Obama did not understand the symbolic significance of his first international trip being to Cairo where he equated American and Islamic traditions of justice and tolerance. Such was not diplomacy, but a symbol of submission. Symbolically, Obama was a disaster for American and Western interests. He negated the symbolic significance of Major Hassan’s murders at Ford Hood by calling the incident “workplace violence”, but every Islamist knows the symbolic value of killing American soldiers right inside their military base by an Islamist American doctor/soldier shouting “Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greater)”.

Obama started off his presidency with some nasty symbolism: he awarded America’s highest civilian award – the Medal of Freedom – to Mary Robinson who presided over the infamous Durban Conference of 2001, where Islamic countries were allowed to hijack a conference about racism into a hatefest against the one country in the Middle East (Israel) that has a functioning justice system protecting minority rights. If Mary Robinson symbolized freedom for this President, then that concept of freedom would not be extended to the Jews.

Every Islamist knows the symbolic value of Obama’s decision to give certain terrorists civilian trials with all American due process reserved for its citizens and allies, when these terrorists are in fact enemy soldiers and should be dealt with in military courts.

The anti-American and anti-Israel crowd in Norway looked on approvingly as their Nobel Prize committee gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize before he actually became president and had a chance to do anything peaceful. Of course, Obama was a mere symbol, with the color of his skin and his anti-American pastor Wright and his ties, however mild, to anti-Semite Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan being sufficient symbols for the Norwegians.

The Islamists and their supporters simply out-symbol the West. Their favorite forum for imposing symbols denigrating western values is the United Nations, which unfortunately is still located in the West’s most important city, New York. UNESCO’s election of Syria to Human Rights Committees was so preposterous that it must have been done for symbolic purposes. Sudan was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission even as it ethnically cleansed Darfur, meaning the world body shows its understanding of human rights is practically the opposite of the West’s. The Islamist war for power feeds on bizarre appointments at the United Nations. It is all about a symbol of power.

Examine the 2013 speech by Obama and then by Israel’s Netanyahu in the United Nations General Assembly on the importance of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapon program. As a symbol of the anti-American nature of the United Nations, member states within days elected Iran to be the rapporteur for the Disarmament and International Security Committee. The position’s duties include relaying information and reports on disarmament and armament activities between the committee and the General Assembly. The symbolism is scary.


The symbol of downtrodden Palestinian Arabs is meant to hide the reality that the dispute is not one over land, but about acceptance of a non-Muslim entity on land ideologically regarded as part of the Muslim world once and therefore forever.
The ultimate symbol of anti-Westernism, anti-liberalism, and anti-colonialism is the Muslim world’s war on the State of Israel. An unbiased neophyte to this subject would be amazed that the Muslim world with its vast territories and huge populations cannot allow the Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland in a virtual sliver of land with about 6 million Jews. Such a neophyte would be amazed that while the Jews of Israel took in and assimilated the refugee Jews ejected from Arab lands, no Arab land has integrated Palestinian refugees (with the possible exception of Jordan, which in fact is the Palestinian State although ruled by Hashemites originally from Saudi Arabia). The symbol of downtrodden Palestinian Arabs is meant to hide the reality that the dispute is not one over land, but about acceptance of a non-Muslim entity on land ideologically regarded as part of the Muslim world once and therefore forever.

The fact that Israel now has a population of Jews equal to the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis is a symbol of historical justice and should be mentioned frequently.

The idea, proposed by Obama and his ilk, that Israel should, after giving the Palestinians Gaza (which has been turned into a launching pad for missiles against Israeli civilians by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad,) to now give more land in historical Judea and Samaria (renamed the 'West Bank') to Arab Muslims is all part of the symbolism of Radical Islam – no recognition of a Jewish state, no Jews in a future Palestinian state, no acceptance of a Jewish history in Israel no matter how much archeological or biblical evidence.

The Palestinian Arabs are less a people than a symbol of intransigence of a type the world has seldom witnessed. If the Palestinians would stop terrorism and stop educating their children to hate Jews and to expect a Palestinian state to arise on the rubble of a destroyed Israel, then it would not take long for the Israelis to give them a demilitarized but sovereign nation. Even now, Israeli doctors treat injured Palestinian patients and Israel accepts Palestinian gays fleeing homophobic laws and practice in the areas controlled by the Palestinians.

Obama and Hilary Clinton managed to achieve the ultimate symbol of submission to Islamist values when they furthered the lie that the Benghazi terrorist attack on the American consulate was a reaction by the “Arab street” to an offensive movie, rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack on the symbolic September 11, 2012 anniversary of 9/11. The symbolism of the quick incarceration of a misguided Egyptian Coptic Christian refugee from Muslim oppression in Egypt was stunning in its symbolic importance. When Ms. Clinton at the inevitable Senate inquiry answered her interlocutor’s questions about the murder of the American ambassador, it was clear that the American Secretary of State had passed over a line. She infamously stated:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

With respect to former Secretary of State Clinton, the most appalling symbolism of all is that a senior aide, Huma Abedin, was connected through family and past employment to the highest ranking officials of the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the highest office of American foreign policy is symbolic of nothing less than the beginning of the end of American exceptionalism and that the symbols of “diversity” in government trump loyalty to America in a time of war. To me, Huma Abedin is the scariest symbol of American decline. Next in line would be the Islamist congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who, immediately after being elected, was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Obama was the master of symbolic submission to Islam and its most dangerous radical adherents in Arab lands: He successfully managed to persuade the mainstream media to hide the almost certain involvement of his Muslim step-father Lolo Soetoro as a senior officer in the 1965 massacre of nearly 1 million Communists and ethnic Chinese by the Muslim majority, and the possible involvement of his mother in the production of lists of Communist sympathizers, in this American-backed horror.

Instead he joined in the preposterous symbolism of Indonesia as some kind of “moderate and tolerant Islamic democracy” to be emulated by other Muslim majority countries. The facts, of course, are otherwise. Indonesia does not recognize the State of Israel and does not recognize Judaism as a religion: The Indonesian Constitution states that it guarantees freedom of religion, but the government only recognizes six official religions (IslamProtestantismCatholicismHinduismBuddhism and Confucianism). As a Jew, I can only have that freedom of religion if I convert to one of the accepted religions.

And non-recognition of the Jewish Homeland is the ultimate symbol of contempt. Non-recognition of the other reduces that other to a non-entity and a non-entity is regarded as having no rights, not even the right to life.

Obama early in his presidency visited his boyhood home of Indonesia and falsely claimed that the United States and Indonesia have “shared values” and that “our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom.” Again, I am bothered by the symbolism that a country that does not accept Judaism as a valid religion has “shared values” with America.

As I have pointed out in an article in Frontpage Magazine,  Indonesia, in addition to its vast killings in the ‘60s, has a disturbing recent history of violence and oppression of minority religions, especially towards Christians around the time of the East Timor independence movement, and more recently towards a minority Islamic sect called Ahmadiyah.

And in October, 2013, I read that Indonesia’s last synagogue has been destroyed, a Dutch news site reported. Unidentified persons demolished the Beith Shalom synagogue in Surabaya on the island of Java to its foundations sometime earlier this year, according to a report on Indoweb.nl.


The synagogue has seen a number of anti-Israel protests staged in front of it and was sealed by Islamic hardliners in 2009, according to the Jakarta Globe.

To Islamists, the sight of an empty synagogue, even one closed for many years, is a symbol that is so offensive that it must be destroyed.

Apparently, there are only 20 Jews left in Indonesia. That too is a symbol. And Americans must understand that Obama lied to them about Islamist symbols such as Indonesia, and Trump, who seems less sophisticated, is actually more sophisticated in his understanding of the symbolic war, in which Solemeini’s assassination is but one positive step to victory.

This article is part III of a three part series but can stand on its own. For parts I and II, click here.

Howard Rotberg is the Canadian founder of Mantua Books (www.mantuabookscom, and author of  The Second Catastrophe: A Novel about a Book and its Author, Exploring Vancouverism: The Political Culture of Canada’s Lotus Land, TOLERism: The Ideology Revealed (in its second (revised) edition), and The Ideological Pathway to Submission: ...and what we can do about it

He writes periodically for New English Review, Frontpage Magazine, Jewish Voice of New York, Israel National News, Act for Canada, and Israpundit, among others. This is an edited version of a chapter in his Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed, available at Amazon.




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