Silk Road

When we thing about the Middle East how often do we merely think of the violence and the bloodshed?

A while ago I had the fortune of seeing the amazing Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul exibition. You learn in school, of course, that ancient “mesopotamia” and all the other places that sound to the student more like fairy tales than actual locations were the cradde of civilisation during a time when Europeans were basically still living in caves. But it is easy to forget that all these marvels, Assur and Sumer and the Persian Empire, are the very geographic places we still see in the TV news all the time. I, too, forgot. Until some years ago I was at a UNESCO / Blue Shield conference and upon the long stream of presenters was an archaeologist almost in tears about the fashion in which Allied troops would trample throgh the very ruins of Babylon without even realising. Ulitmately she had a deck of playing cards, similar to the one featuring the US’ most wanted terrorists, printed showing the most important heritage sites of Iraq hoping someone would remember to thread lightly in these ancient lands.

These days I have been considering travel destinations for later this year and to my own surprise I found myself lay eyes on places I knew I cannot go: The ancient sites of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan; the cradle of civilisation where every rock tells a story or two or three. I want to see how the ancient Silk Road winds through the ranges of northern Afghanistan and Iran; I want to see the marvellous Persian gardens and the ruins of all those places we learnt about in history class much like they were from another world. But of course I cannot go there for they are drenched in blood and chaos that can re-errupt at any moment. There are still, and that is for a reason, travel warnings for Iraq and Afghanistan and the boycott of Iran means you cannot even withdraw money from an ATM or use a credit card there – leaving you stranded without cash in an emergency.

So as I looked longingly upon those fairy tale places it dawned on me with new strength how much more there is to the Middle East than terrorism and war and IEDs blowing up everyone that comes too close. I wonder how long it will take until I can travel there and feel welcome and secure and all of a sudden I just cannot wait for the time when the conflict is nothing but a memory and heritage sites are being given a new lease of life.

Five years ago I went on an extended field trip to Croatia. I had been there as a child, before the civil war, and I still remembered the place nobody ever thought would descend into chaos; a place with people much as we were where we would go to unwind and enjoy the sea and the hospitality and great cuisine of her people. And then the war came and all we ever got to see again of Croatia were endless streams of traumatised refugees. For ten or so years Croatia, too, was one of these places you just could not go.

So going there again after the debris had been cleared and an emancipated Croatia was on its way of becomming an European Union member had something magic. Visiting Dubrovnik, that medieval gem that was almost destroyed by the ferocity of civil war but had been rebuilt to its fully glory was special. Yes, there were still the traces of shelled houses never rebuilt as soon as you left the main road; a reminder of just how little time had passed; but seeing Croatia again after the war was a pointer how there is always a time after. Eventually.

And now looking upon the Mesopotamian high cultures I wonder and hope whether in another ten years these, too, might just awake from their uncomfortable rest and once again become sites to be marvelled at by generations to come with the war but a chapter of a very, very long and glorious history.

– Migdalit


I love quotes! A How-To on going to war

Hey folks,

yesterday, when researching quotes for my democracy-article I found another rather intriguing quote from a not-at-all political correct source. (And one I know mentioning his name will boost my stats again *hehe*): Mr Hermann Goering, minister to a long-gone “1000 years” German “Reich”:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

– H. Goering

Sometimes I think I have a clue where exactly in history to look for former US-President (George W. as well as George) Bush’s inspirations and historic mentors

Oh I just love historic quotes! And somehow I guess I’m into politically incorrect sources too:

“Don’t ever trust a statistic you haven’t forged yourself!”

– H. Goebbels

I just wonder whether those people who produced them some decades ago had any idea how accurate they would be …?

shabbat shalom and a magic weekend



Another other side

Shabbat Shalom,

there is always another side of the medal. Another side of those countries claiming they are in for “Peace in Middle East” (TM) – including Israel – as well as those commonly known rather for other news. What I found by accident in a Afghan-German forum tonight for sure is one of those other sides:

Regards: Afghanistan should recognize Israel!!!


Salam dear people,

In my opinion Afghanistan should finally recognize the Jewish state because the Jews haven’t done anything to us. I am in favor of a strong military and economical cooperation between Israel and Afghanistan. Furthermore  I am in favour of a official invitation to Afghan Jews to return to their home. I would like to hear your opinion. Thanks.


My opinion: I don’t mind a cooperation between Israel and Afghanistan. But one must be aware of the far going consequences.

Fundamentalist forces already drive us nuts with our land getting foreign military aid. What is going to happen when Afghanistan makes a pact with the concept of the enemy of the radical-islamic world?

I can predict it to you: The invasion of  Arab, Pakistani and Chechnian terrorist-guys, who will level our already bedevilled realm with the vague illusion of “freeing” us from the “infidel”. Moreover I think the Israelis mostly don’t care whether a underdeveloped country, which is several thousand kilometres away and mostly uninvolved in geopolitics recognizes them or not.

That’s it. No anti-Israeli jumping in trying to tell them something about Israeli human rights abusesthough the topic has been posted on June 19 2008, nearly two months ago. The only other posting is that of Rajesh featuring a link to a german article reporting on a tiny Jewish community in Afghanistan: Exactly one man. 

Small things like those postings give me hope. A lot of hope actually. Hope that one day it might be the most normal thing in the world for a Israeli to visit the re-developed country of Afghanistan. Thank you sooooo much guys, shukran and toda raba.

What I think Farhang is wrong about though is that Israel wouldn’t care. I bet they’d care a lot. Just imagine a country like Afghanistan, in the middle of the worst of the whole mess and with a 99% Muslim population, would bravely step forward and recognize, even work together with Israel! What a symbol! What a shot of hope that there are friends out there, right where you’d least expect them. And what a terrible blow for hardliners who believe every Muslim necessarily has to be an enemy

Plus I bet an intelligence and counter terrorism cooperation between Israel and Afghanistan could be rather beneficial to both nations. To Afghanistan by getting Israeli know-how on fighting the Taliban and other radical-islamist morons and for Israel getting hand on islamistic terrorists where they come into existence and a chance to extinct multinational terrorist cells right at their roots. If I was a counter-terrorism-person I’d jump for joy as if celebrating Hanukkah, Yule and Christmas at one day.

Not talking about the possibility for exiled Afghan Jews to return home. As beautiful as Israel is and as much as it might be the original “homeland” of the Jews it doesn’t necessarily mean all of them feel at home there.

Though this might be borderline politics I still think it was a great one for shabbat.

I hope you will get through another week of possibly little postings and am looking forward to having more time for my blog again next weekend.



Well, that’s new

Hey there,

so terrorist attacks of all kinds are as normal in Iraq as thunderstorms are in Austrian summers. So reading this I was kinda startled:

Jihadis Despair of Iraq

Yaman Mukhaddab, a popular contributor to al-Hesbah (the most exclusive Jihadi forum), wrote an essay on July 21 in which he expressed alarm at the low morale and pessimism of some of his fellow forum members on account of al-Qaeda setbacks in Iraq.

One brother, he notes, said that the jihad in Iraq is ending like the jihad in Algeria (badly).

Another brother criticized Mukhaddab for being optimistic about Iraq.

A third said the situation is out of control and the outcome is already known.

Mukhaddab responds that such pessimism is unwarranted.  As scripture says, victory will come after severe testing.  And things can turn around at any time.  If AQ is able to strike the U.S. or if the U.S. strikes Iran, the mujahids in Iraq will benefit greatly (he doesn’t explain why).

Mukhaddab ends by reminding his readers that there was a similar level of despondency after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan but things turned out well in the end.

Despite his optimism, the fact that Mukhaddab would admit that other Jihadis on al-Hesbah–where the most influential pundits hold court–are souring on Iraq means that al-Qaeda is truly almost done there and that foreign fighters will be looking for greener pastures.

[also see Arabic original text: 7-21-08-ekhlaas-yaman-mukhaddab-criticizes-pessimism-about-iraq]

Even more just a couple of posts above the same author added:

[…] the Washington Post gives us further evidence that Iraq is a sinking ship for al-Qaeda and Afghanistan is the lifeboat, at least for the senior leadership. Amit Paley has written a well-sourced articleon the departure of Abu Ayyub al-Masri (aka Abu Hamza al-Muhajer), the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, for Afghanistan. […]

I mean I would wish this to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much because of all the attacks and the US’ response and I’d also wish this to the families of and US American soldiers who are caught in that hell of a place called “Iraq” that used to be a 1001 nights paradise back then.

 A failing of al Quaida terrorism in Iraq could (!) mean there would finally be hope for peace and Iraqis returning to some kind of a normal life where the US American troops with their guns and strange culture wouldn’t be needed anymore and could finally leave. And of course the thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syrian and Jordanian exile could finally return. A scenario which has seemed to be nearly impossible lately. Who knows what hope Iraq finding its way back to normality could cast even outside Iraq? Would people get the message that “Jihad” isn’t the sole answer?

Yet what does it mean for Afghanistan? Do the allied troops stationed there have a change to stand enforced Taliban / al Quaida on the long run if the emphasis of al Quaida operations was moved to Afghanistan? And is the country just a couple of years after the war and with half of it still in Taliban hands strong enough to preserve the freedom it built up in the northern cities in that scenario? I hope so … really do.