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Walter Rodgers

Crusades redux: Will Jerusalem soon be surrounded by hostile Islamists?

In 1187, Jerusalem was engulfed by an angry, surging Muslim sea. Today, revolution in the Arab world – particularly in Egypt – is making Israel anxious.

By Walter Rodgers / February 17, 2011



The other night I found myself dreaming, drifting simultaneously through two parallel worlds, 800 years apart.

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In the first vision, I was on the ramparts of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in July 1187. News came in from Galilee that the Crusader Armies had been decimated by the overwhelming Muslim forces of the great Sultan Saladin at the Battle of Hattin. Jerusalem, already an island in an angry, surging Muslim sea, was about to be totally engulfed.

My second dream was in the same place, but I was witnessing a 21st-century Islamic encirclement of modern-day Israel. This second trance was apparently shared by some Israeli columnists who openly fear Egypt’s chaotic regime could be followed by an extremist Islamic government, reinforcing that nightmare Crusader scenario of encirclement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already asked the United States and other countries to make it clear that any new Egyptian government must not be allowed to abrogate its longstanding peace treaty with Israel. Although Egypt's Army has said it will uphold the accord with Israel, a worrying sign came this week from opposition politician Ayman Nour. Dr. Nour, who is planning to run for president as head of the liberal, secular Party of Tomorrow, declared the Camp David agreement to be "over" and urged Egypt to renegotiate its terms.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hailed events in Egypt as an Islamic “awakening” spawned by Iran’s earlier revolution. He cheered the events in Cairo, saying they could spark an “irreparable defeat for the United States.”

Not just a nightmare

Whatever scenario emerges in Egypt, a serious rethink in Tel Aviv’s Defense Ministry is now certain. Encirclement by angry Islamists is no longer the nightmare of a few Jewish paranoids.

It is not the fear of Muslim democracies that is so alarming. The trouble is that when they have emerged, in places like Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran, they become bloody and look so undemocratic.

Those who believe they can do business with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, or that it is not a threat, should read Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon’s “The Age of Sacred Terror.” They remind us that the Brotherhood’s party credo is “God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution; the Prophet is our leader; Struggle is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations.” Well before the events in Cairo, the authors suggest, “the [Egyptian] founders of the Brotherhood had more in mind than an Islamic society within a secular state.”

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