Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Camille Al-Tawil's book Al-Qaeda wa Akhawatuha: Kissat Al-Jihadyieen Al-Arab


Ayoon Wa Azan (One Should Not Mix Up The Good With The Bad)
Jihad el-Khazen Al-Hayat - 16/10/07//

Today I have for my readers a collection of books some of which I have read and hope to read some others, in addition to books that I will not read. Yet, they remain important since one should be aware of their existence. When the author is an enemy or a famous racist, I do not need to hear his view on Hizbullah or Hamas or any other Arab or Islamic country.

Some western writers are fairer than us and more sympathetic to Arab and Islamic causes than some of those concerned. Therefore, one should not mix up the good with the bad ones as this will promote the opponent's argument and weaken the friend's attitude.

The number of books dealing with Hamas has increased since its victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006. Such books will inevitably increase another time in the aftermath of its dissociation of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian national authorities in Ramallah.

I will not try to compare the books as I have read only Inside Hamas: the Untold Story of Militants, Martyrs and Spies by colleague Zaki Shihab. The other available books mirror a prejudiced opinion. Fellow Azzam Al-Tamimi published his book Hamas: Unwritten Chapters but I know that he sympathizes with Hamas and all Islamic factions.

Matthew Levitt also published Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. However, this man is a radical Israeli apologist whose work at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy I have followed up and consequently I have found him a vile and racist man. He collects death toll figures resulting from Hamas' suicide attacks and has come up with 473 killed in 79 operations. But he overlooks Israel's massacre of 4233 Palestinians almost in the same period. This figure involves 857 minors some of whom are girls below adolescence age and children, and it seems that he does not consider them humans such as the Israelis like him. I oppose suicide operations, though I have not heard yet that Lewitt opposes Israeli Nazism.

Leaving Lewitt to be eaten up by his grudges, I go back to Zaki Shihab who knows Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the Hamas spiritual father and the handicapped scholar whose son Abdel Hamid is tortured by the Israelis in front of him to force him to concede his role in the creation of Hamas. He is also expected to deliver the names of the founding members, some of whom are martyrs while others are still alive and have become ministers. Zaki Shihab had conducted several long interviews with Sheikh Yassin and Alhayat published some of them. He enriched the book with other details and provided new information on other Hamas leaders as he knows them personally and maintains contact with them.

If the subject of interest is not Hamas, it must be Hizbullah on which many books have been published. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is almost an expert in funding both factions and in warning against them on behalf of Israel. The specialized researcher is interested in such books, but I resist buying them to prevent both the author and the publisher from reaping any benefit.

Camille Al-Tawil's book Al-Qaeda wa Akhawatuha: Kissat Al-Jihadyieen Al-Arab, published by Saqi Publishers, has been the best work on the topic in the past ten years. Unfortunately it is written in Arabic and westerners, especially the Americans, are in greater need of the information mentioned in it than we are. One of the causes behind the calamities befalling the Americans in Afghanistan, Iraq and everywhere is the presence of alleged terror experts, the majority of whom work according to an Israeli agenda, and their awareness of the topic is restricted to what suits their commitment to Israel.

Camille Al-Tawil is a senior editor in Al-Hayat in the Islamists' section and he is familiar with them from Algeria to Afghanistan and Pakistan and every country in the region. He has now produced out of his experience a 412-page book in which the index on major figures is made up of ten pages.

In the introduction, Camille says that the jihadists initially considered the jihad against apostate rulers a priority. But after the Americans hit them in Afghanistan toward the end of 2001 and early 2002, they turned to fighting 'the original unbelievers', i.e. western rulers on top of whom is the United States. Yet, in the author's opinion, the transformation is for a temporary and specific reason having to do with the fact that the unbelievers are behind the persistence of the apostates in ruling the Islamic world, and once the unbelievers are defeated the apostates will collapse with them. The author chooses to review the history of the jihad group in Egypt, The Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, and The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. As a colleague of Camille, I know that his information comes from direct sources and it is accumulated over a number of years. Explaining his choice, he says that Al-Qaeda's history can not be narrated independently of that of its sister jihadist groups, the majority of whom emerged following the period of jihad in Afghanistan toward the end of the 1980s and early 1990s of last century.

If the reader can not read more than one book on jihadists, he will find his long-sought object in Al-Qaeda wa Akhawatuha. The pages on the Islamists' activities in the Sudan, too informative for the Bashir government to tolerate, represent a treasure of information on that period. Similarly, Osama Bin Laden's return to Afghanistan after he had spent years in the Sudan accurately chronicles that period. The book also deals with the rivalry between the incoming Arab groups and between the Afghan mujahideen, alliances and conspiracies, the roles played by prominent leaders and others known only by insiders.

I hope that Camille Al-Tawil's book will be translated into English, and I also hope that the American administration officials will read it so they can find, at least once, true information that might help them take right decisions, at least one. I will get back to new books in two days' time.


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