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The Cultural-Historical Debate behind the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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It is so mistakenly common to refer to the “Middle East conflict” as the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” In fact, in the Middle East there are so many wars, quarrels, conflicts and violence, representing perhaps the pick of world regions. The Arab-Israeli conflict is only one of them and the less lethal. This is one of the important facts to understand.

However, it has a “bad reputation” of the highest media attention. Why? Because the Palestinians have the best public relations machinery, perhaps ever in history, and they have succeeded to bring their case to the core of world attention at the expense of so many severer cases in the Middle East, let alone in the world.    

It is a common belief that the “Arab-Israeli conflict” is a conflict of two peoples fighting over the same piece of land and therefore it is one of nationalism. However, this belief stems from misunderstanding that leads to misperceptions, since the framework is more complicated. This conflict has many facets and dimensions. It is basically religious-cultural, a Muslim-Jewish conflict, which is Islam vs. Judaism; it is cloaked in political-ideological dimension, which is Arab nationalism vs. Jewish Zionism; and it is manifested as a territorial-national one, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is highly difficult for Westerners to internalize the real issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the face of it, the objective is to find the formula of conflict resolution, by bridging the gaps between the attitudes of the parties; or at best to settle the issues down as a sort of conflict management. However, after so many years of negotiations, mediations, academic and political proposals, only little progress has been achieved, and amazingly there is still hope that a political arrangement, a magic formula to its solution, can be worked out.

Now there is the next round. The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority have agreed to engage in direct peace talks. However, neither side has expressed any enthusiasm or hopes to find a resolution. They just wish to satisfy the US administration, to show willingness to gather around for talks, to be on the diplomatic track because the US wants them to do so, but not to end the talks by peace treaty. Peace talks are the American solution, which gives the US the appearance of seeking a solution to settle the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The comings and goings of American diplomats, the occasional photo op with leaders give legitimacy, status and standing. The US produces another pyrotechnical exposition which leads to nowhere. Talks do not solve the issues, but give the impression of progressing forward, thus, they become an end in itself and not the means to achieve peace.

Specifically, there are crucial constraints: first, there is no united, accepted, recognized Palestinian leadership, which can carry out the burdens of the resolution and impose it on the Palestinian society. Arafat had it but he did not want to. Abu Mazen has not the ability to achieve it and he does not want it. Second, any agreement with Abu Mazen, a weak and un-authoritative leader, is not acceptable by Hamas and other groups. Third, the Palestinians want it all and no less than all. They have never come to any compromise and they still do not recognize Israel as a nation deserving a statehood in this territory.

Under these circumstances any agreement could not bring a resolution but perhaps exacerbates the Palestinian situation, which will drip and intensify the hostilities against Israel. One of the main reasons is that whatever they do, all the atrocities they perform, and their stubborn refusal is hailed with applauses and consent by the international community, mainly Europe, with donations of billions of dollars.

Under these circumstances, why should they change their attitudes and policies? They win big time, and they have all the patience (Sabr) and steadfastness (Sumud) waiting for Israel’s collapse. The billions of dollars given to them by the international community, really at the expense of those who really need it, empower the Palestinians to continue on the road of stubbornness and extremism, with good life and high standard of living compare to at least 80 states around the world and one billion of people, including many in the Arab and Muslim states. Most of the money donated goes to corruption of the political elite and to terrorism.

All that one has to do to realize this situation, is to visit the Palestinians’ towns and villages, to see the comparatively high standard of living and then to travel to most of African, Asian and South-American states for comparison. All these, bearing in mind that the Palestinians get the flow of money from outside, being defined as wretched miserable people under Israel’s occupation and apartheid.

Very few people around the world really know the situation: 94-96 percent of the Palestinians are not, are absolutely not under Israel’s “occupation” or “control.” They live under their own people control and leadership in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, Israel control part of the territory, but very small part of Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians live their own life under their government and regimes, without any Israel’s interference or control. Moreover, had they stop terrorism and violence, and had they proceed with Oslo Accords, they would already have most of the territory, except of very few territories under dispute.                      

Why so little progress has been achieved? The so many failures of the past have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and the objectives. The failure is based on the international understanding that the main issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are three: a) recognized borders acceptable by the parties; b) the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees; and c) Jerusalem issue. However, these are the symptoms, the by-product of the real issue, which is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish Zionist sovereign state. Here, the Palestinians’ refusal is total.  

This is the utmost important issue, and the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize it is the chief reason why the conflict is still here with us. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), a Holocaust denier and abhor extremist, who nevertheless is considered moderate, has reiterated this view for so many times: “I will never recognize Israel as the state and the Jewish people as a nation.” Time and again he declares that the peace talks are not the goal, but just another stage in the Palestinian attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a state and present it as a “racist, apartheid state.”

The strategy of denial of the Jewish character of Israel is manifested in the conception that Israel should, in fact, become a bi-national state, or a State of all its Nationals, but never a Jewish state, living beside a Palestinian state, clean of Jews. This in fact the Palestinian formula to what they call “the States Solution.” The immediate end-result would be two Palestinian states, with perhaps a Jewish minority in one of them; and in the not far away future, three Palestinian states, after Jordan becomes Palestinian, out of demography and security weakness in the absence of Israel’s support.

Therefore, he who wishes to solve the conflict must start here. Only after recognizing Israel as a Jewish Zionist state and then the solemn declaration of the Palestinians to end of all sorts of hostilities, and agreeing to peaceful means of living together; only then, the other issues of borders, refugees, and Jerusalem are to be negotiated and decided upon.

The issue of recognition is conspicuous by analyzing contemporary Palestinian politics with its two main strategies: The first, the secular one, which is national-territorial, elaborated by PLO-Fath; the second, the religious one, which is religious-cultural, elaborated by Hamas. However, both approaches are similar in their total demand to obliterating the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state. Both wish to establish the Palestinian State on the entire territory “from the Sea to the River;” and both resist any possibility of Jewish existence as a nation entitled to a state. They only differ in the tactics and the means to achieve it, and as of the future status of the Palestinian state, being religious or secular, although not exactly in the Western terms.

These two attitudes are exemplified by a clear ideology of genocide and politicide, in the Palestinian National Covenant and the Hamas Charter.

The Palestinian National Covenant states:

Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people (Article 1). The Arab Palestinian people is the only legitimate owner of his land, and will determine himself politically only after the total liberation of his land according to its will and decision (Article 3). Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinians assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 9).

The liberation of Palestine means to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression, and aims at the elimination of Zionism from Palestine in its entirety (Article 15). The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 are entirely illegal (Article 19). The Balfour Declaration [1917], the Mandate for Palestine [1919], and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of the Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history. Judaism, being only a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own. They are only citizens of the states to which they belong (Article 20).

The Palestinian people, expressing himself by the armed revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 21). The liberation of Palestine will totally destroy the Zionist presence and by that will contribute to the establishment of peace (Article 22).

Hamas Charter, contrary to Fath-PLO covenant, seeks not a ‘Palestinian state,’ but an ‘Islamic Ummah,’ according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. The Charter opens with a quote from the Qur’an (3:10): “You [Islamic nation] are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind,” and declares the following:

Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it… It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned. In the absence of Islam, strife will be rife, oppression spreads, evil prevails and schisms and wars will break out (Article 6).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It includes the struggle of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and all Jihad operations… The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the and kill the Jews, and when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O the servants of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him (Article 7).

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Qur’an its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes (Article 8).

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (endowment) until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to deny that. Palestine in its entirety belongs only to the Palestinians. This is the law governing the Islamic Shari’ah (article 11).

Nothing is more significant or deeper than Jihad against the Zionist enemy. Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Muslim, male or female. Abusing any part of Palestine is tantamount to abuse part of the religion [which means death]. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad to eliminate the Zionist invasion. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors (Article 13). It is the utmost necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the Muslim nation (Article 15).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them, except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts. Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam (Article 31).

He who wishes even to begin understanding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must start here, with the ideology of annihilation, with the Palestinian Mein Kampf towards Israel. Moreover, after reading these documents, and listening-watching-reading the so many thousands declarations of the Palestinian leaders, the conclusion is clear: the issue is not the ‘occupation,’ the 1967 borders, but Israel’s existence. There is no mentioning of the ‘1967 occupation’ at all, but the ‘1948 occupation.’ It is Israel’s entity at any part of that area that matters; it is the total refusal to accept Israeli legitimacy and to make peace with Israel in any borders.

This is perhaps the biggest fallacy all outside parties share. When the Palestinians say ‘Israeli occupation,’ it is not the 1967 occupation, but the 1948 occupation; and it is not the 1967 borders even not the 1947 borders. The word ‘occupation’ serves as a code-word for the Palestinians the channel world politics and good people to support their case, without really knowing their real objectives.

This is perhaps the greatest deceit in modern time: when the Palestinians murder and massacre Israelis by inhuman terrorism, it is not because of the “occupation” of 1967 border. Arab harsh terrorism against Jews began from the 1920’s; and it is not because of the “settlements,” since the violent objection against Jewish immigration and settlements began even before 1920’s. The so-called 1967 occupied territories have no relevance to the conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is just another problem in a large set of complex issues which firstly must be focused on the recognition of Israel as a state and as a nation.

This is the Palestinian ideology of annihilation. The chief means is incitement and hatred. It is the supreme utmost strategy; the operational code in which it is executed and perpetuated. This is an ocean-deep, so atavistic and inhuman, a highly venomous loath toward everything Israel and Jews represent, manifested in all spheres of life. Children and youth learn to hate before everything else in life, and this is what motivates their ways of thinking and activities. This is a full-fledged industry, a monstrous phenomenon we are even unable to comprehend.

Although in the Qur’an there is the recognition of the Jewish ownership and sole rights on the Land of Israel, called “the Holy Land” (al-Ard al-Muqaddasah); “the Blessed Land” (al-Ard al-Mubarakah); the “Land of the Jews” (Ard Bani-Isra’il), and although on other passages it is declared that the Jews are Allah’s chosen people (2:47; 44:32; 45:16), Palestinian ideology still promotes genocide and Politicide objectives. Killing Jews serves as a prerequisite to religious redemption, for the sake of humanity at large. Palestine’s blessing is linked to the destruction of Israel that opens the doors to Heaven.

The fanatic exaggerated lies are inconceivable to human mind, and reiterated thousands of times. Khaled Mash`al, Hamas political bureau chairman:

“What the State of Israel has done to the Palestinian people is ten times worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews… The Zionist holocaust of the Palestinian people and the peoples of the Arab-Muslim nation is being carried out in full view, and no one can deny it or claim that it has been exaggerated…”

In a sermon on official Palestinian Authority TV the cleric preached:

The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular… The Jews are the Jews. Even if donkeys would cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl and snakes to bite, the Jews would not cease to harbor hatred towards Muslims… The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them all.

In a Friday sermon on al-Aqsa TV:

We will redeem Palestine with our souls, with our blood, with our sons, with what is most dear to us until it is entirely liberated and purified. The only way to liberate it is through Jihad for the sake of Allah. Jihad today is an individual duty, incumbent upon each and every Muslim man and woman.

Believe it or not, these declarations are not only the least extreme. The industry of hatred is fed even exacerbated by the industry of lies, and both produce an unprecedented volume of violence that brings de-humanization of the Jews. Violence does not and cannot exist by itself; it is invariably intertwined with the lie. The main aspect of hate industry is the educational system.

Anti-Semitism, the denial of the Jewish state’s right to exist, and martyrdom are constant staples on PA TV and other media devices. All cultural and social life are directed to stigmatize the phenomena. The Palestinians have targeted their education and media socialization and indoctrination toward the de-legitimization of Israel and de-humanization of the Jews, to prepare the ground of yet another “final solution.”

The main Palestinian strategy is to turn the historical-political reality upside down, by twisting the well-documented facts of history and by re-inventing a wholly new fabricated history. The lies they present are so detached from reality, are so disconnected from any human logic, and that is why they exactly are accepted. When one reiterates absurdity after total absurdity, people begin to believe it has some truths. Hitler, Goebbels, and Lenin have proven this; the Palestinians practice it so successfully.

The Palestinians claim the ridiculous absurdity that their ancestors were the seven peoples of Canaan and the Philistines. Going along, since the Palestinians are their descendants, they preceded the Jews in their right to the territory. Moreover, in Palestinians’ perspective, the Jews today have no connection to the Jews of the past, which were disappeared historically. Contemporary Jews are religious groups of imposters who are not the real Jews, but rather part of the Zionist plot to gain control of the Palestinians homeland.

Here is the exponent of Zaid Nabulsi review in Saudi paper:

All Zionist archaeologists have failed — after digging up every conceivable corner of Palestine for the last 62 years — to come up with a single credible Jewish teapot or tablespoon… digging. Two years ago, Israeli professor Shlomo Sand argued, with meticulous scholarship in his earth-shattering book, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People,’ that the claim that the Jews of today are the ethnic offspring of the Biblical Jews is yet another Zionist myth, because all records tell us that the current Jews are the descendants of Khazar tribes who converted to Judaism, and have no genetic link whatsoever to the Jews who lived in Palestine during Roman times… the Romans apparently never exiled anybody of the Jews. Sand demolishes the myth of the Kingdoms of David and Solomon by proving they are pure legends that never existed.

Israel is indeed under vicious assault of pseudo-history by the Palestinians who are assisted by pseudo-historians, many of them anti-Semite Jews, to invent new “history,” to rewrite some of the most widely-accepted truths of history. This is not only pseudo-historic revisionism or denial of well accepted truths, but clearly Nazi-Fascist claims, falsifying, twisting and distorting the history of the Land of Israel and the Jews.

Psychological factors operate to manipulate views and attitudes, and to create mantras that do not necessarily reflect either the historical record or applicable international law. Language becomes an important tool both in falsifying events and in perpetuating beliefs based on narratives that do not accurately reflect history. Psychological manipulation is operated for political purposes. Colonialism has become the major theme in de-legitimizing and de-humanizing Israel, charged as a ‘settler-colonialist’ state. The notion of ‘settler’ dismisses any historical or biblical connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel, hence, the importance of denial of Jewish rights. These charges are rooted in cognitive denial of any Jewish connection to Palestine. The mechanism of dissonance reduction is most central by arguing that Jews do not constitute a national entity and cannot have legitimate rights to what was known as Palestine. Corresponding with article 20 of their Covenant, the Palestinians claim that since Jews are members of a religion and not a nation, any nationalistic aspirations based on a specific territory are invalid.

Historically, ‘Palestine’ has never been a territorial-cultural and political unit and it had no special geographic or political role for the last 2000 years. The name in Arabic, “Filastin,” has no historical cultural connotations or any etymological meaning. “Palestine” has even no meaning in Greek, Latin, or English. In the New English Bible, the Latin name Palaestina denote Philistia as in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, the word does not occur at all. The only language it comes from is Hebrew, denoting the southern coastal region of the Land of Israel called “Pleshet”. Yet, it has now taken on the wholesale myth that could fill volumes of vitriolic and venomous propaganda that has become a virtual religion in itself.

The historical truths are clear: first, there has never been a sovereign Arab state in Palestine, after the Jewish Diaspora, 1900 years ago, until the establishment of the State of Israel; second, nor did a Palestinian people, distinct from other Arabs, appear during 1,375 years of Muslim hegemony in Palestine under Arab, Muslim and Ottoman rule; third, Jerusalem has never been an Arab or Muslim capital, even not an important city during the entire history of Islamic rule. Only twice in Jerusalem’s history has it served as a national capital: during the first Jewish kingdoms of David and Solomon (1013-933 B.C.) and the Second Temple period; and now as the capital of the State of Israel.

After the end of the second Jewish revolt in 135, the Roman ruler, Herod Agrippa, decided to rename the territory from “Provincia Judaea” to ‘Provincia Syria Palaestina’. The name was derived from the Philistines, a non-Semitic, Indo-European people from the Aegean islands. Later on the region was split into “Palaestina Prima,” consisted of Judea, Samaria and east and southern part of the Jordan valley; “Palaestina Secunda,” consist of the Galilee, the Golan and the northern part of the Jordan river; and “Palaestina Tertia,” extended over southern Transjordan, the Negev and Sinai desert. The Roman renamed Jerusalem as “Aelia Capitolina”.

The Arab invasion of the Middle East from 632, culminated in the conquest of the country in 634 and Jerusalem in 638. Palaestina Prima became Jund Filastin, the military district of Palaestina, administered from Lydda and Ramla; Palaestina Secunda including Western Galilee, became Jund al-Urdun, and was administered from Tiberias. These Arabic names were a direct borrowing from the Greco-Roman terms, but because Arabic has no “p” sound in its language “Palaestina” became “Filastin).” The Arab division of the country, like the Roman, was not vertical between east and west, but horizontal, with Filastin in the south and Urdun in the north.

The word ‘Palestine’ was reborn in the 20th century by the British, together with “Filastin” in Arabic, and “Palestina (E.I.: initials standing for Eretz-Israel)” in Hebrew. However, In contrast to the Jews, the Arab inhabitants avoided using the Arabic name Filastin, but the name “Arabs” or “Syrians.” The Peel Report had clearly noticed: “the Arabs had always regarded Palestine as included in Syria.” This was the official position of the Palestinian and Arab leadership during the 1940’s. In 1945, the renowned historian Philip Hitti vehemently claimed before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in January 11, 1946: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.” As late as 1956, Ahmad Shuqeiry, while addressing the United Nations Security Council, has put it: ‘it is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria’. Even the UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 mentions only “Arab refugees,” not “Palestinian refugees,” or a “Palestinian people.”

What do all these mean? One can only imagine if Hadrian had never changed the name from Judea to Palaestina, so this unique name wouldn’t have ever existed. In that case would we be hearing of “a Judean Arab people” striving to establish “a Judean Arab land”? The British could have chosen the name “The Holy Land” or “The Land of Israel” or other name. In that case, again, there could have been no “Palestine” as a territory and no “Palestinians” as a nation. To make it more absurd: what if Hadrian or the British had changed the name to “Jupiter?” In that case, would we be hearing of a “Jupiterian Arab people” fighting to liberate their “Jupiterian Arab land”?

Without entering polemical argumentation, from any known scientific historical perspectives, can one trace evidence to a land called Palestine? Can one show when and where it was founded and who were its leaders? Can one delineate its borders, its major cities and capital? Can one record its society, economy, currency, and political settings? Indeed, there is none of all these. There is no language known as Palestinian, or even specific Arabic accent; there is no distinct Palestinian culture; there are no records in history of Palestinian life; there are no archaeological sites and monuments. Indeed, there has never been a land known as “Palestine” governed by distinct “Palestinians.”

This does not deny at all the idea there is a Palestinian people today striving to establish a Palestinian state. Nationalism and political identity are evolving terms. However, these are brand new terms, only from the 1950’s, and mainly after 1967 war. For that, there is no need to twist and to rape history, unless one wishes to deny other’s legitimate rights. From here stems the most important question: what do the Palestinians really want?

What about Jews’ legal rights? Israel’s political rights and sovereignty over the mandated territory called ‘Palestine’ were favored under International Law. In 1917 Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued his famous ‘Declaration,’ with the consent of the cabinet. In 1920, the Ottoman Empire in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres, granted its sovereignty in the Middle East, which had been undisputed for 400 years, to Great Britain. In 1920 San Remo convention, the Allies adopted Lord Balfour’s declaration as its policy, called ‘The British Mandate,’ that became International Law. The 1922 Palestine Mandate specifically refers to the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” and called for the Jewish people to begin “reconstituting of their national home.” In 1924, the British Mandate became the domestic law of England and the US. The UN continued with this policy, according to article 80 of its Charter. So, Israel emerged from the British Mandate with the support of the League of Nations, and recognition of the UN.

Furthermore, 99% of the lands captured from the Ottomans in the Middle East and the North Africa was allocated to the Arabs. Only 1% was given to the Jews under the British mandate. After Churchill gave Transjordan to Abdullah, the Arabs and Muslims had 99.77% of the lands, and the Jews only one quarter of one percent. These figures expose the whole reality of the Middle East.

The assertion that Israel came into existence on the basis of injustice done to the Palestinian nation proceeds on gross errors and lies: to claim that the Palestinian nation was displaced by Israel, when no such entity existed at that time is playing with the facts of history and twisting it. To argue that Israel took areas belonging to a Palestinian political entity in the Six Day War is a gross lie, since there was no Palestinian sovereignty on any territory. The fact is that in the 1967 war, Israel conquered militarily areas of mandatory Palestine which had been occupied by Jordan, which annexed the ‘West Bank;’ and Egypt, which retained the Mandatory system in Gaza.

After the failure of the Arab states in 1948 war, frontiers for the Jewish state were determined in negotiations with the Arab states, which appropriated the Palestinian issue to themselves. All armistice agreements were conducted and signed by the Arab states. No mention of the ‘Palestinians’ as a people and ‘Palestine’ as a territory. The fact is that UN Resolution 194, of December 11, 1948, refers mainly to conciliation regime between Israel and the Arab states, and only in Article 11 does it relate to the ‘refugee problem’ in general terms. If this means Palestinians, it no less means Jewish refugees from Arab states.

The allegations that Israel was established by the European colonialism, is cynical, ironical and aberration of the truth. It is exactly the Arab States that deserve their nationalities to the decisions of the European powers, including the delineating of their entire borders. Moreover, to accuse Israel of being the product of European colonialism, while the history of the Arabs and Islam is the pure form of imperialism, colonialism and occupation, is again twisting the truth. The Middle East was mainly Christian before it was occupied by Islam; Egypt was Pharaonic; Iran was Sassanid; Lebanon was Phoenician; Turkey was Christian; North Africa was Berber; Afghanistan was Christian; Pakistan was Buddhist. They all and many other countries were harshly occupied and viciously colonized by the Arabs and Islam. While European colonialism demised, Arab-Islamic colonialism thrives and expanding.      

The refugee Issue

The Palestinians initiated a highly successful propaganda campaign that Israel occupies the land belonging solely to them, uprooted its nation and scattered them out of their land. The Palestinian Nakbah has become a myth, the lost paradise, and thus the utmost specter. However, the original political use of the Nakbah was in 1920, when the local Arabs vehemently objected the separation of the territory from Syria.

The Palestinian national narrative depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin, routinely equated with the Jewish Holocaust, and its remedy is turning the clock back to 1948. All Palestinian refugees, not just those still alive from 1948, but their millions of descendants, would be allowed to return to their homes. By that, this would entail the ending of the Jewish Zionist state.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of refugees, since only a small minority of them live in camps, and the socioeconomic data and the living standards show clearly that their situation not only resembles hundreds of millions of inhabitants of Third World countries, but in many ways the Palestinian economy and social situation is much better than at least one hundred states, including some Arab states.

The Palestinian issue is not the problem of a people uprooted from its land, since most of the Palestinians live in the land of ‘Mandatory Palestine,’ in area less than the distance between New York and Philadelphia. Small part of them still resides in refugee camps only because some still hope of the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of a society that was scattered from its human environment, since almost all Palestinians live and reside in an Arabic speaking society and culture, among their own society. It is absolutely clear that the total majority of the so-called Palestinian refugees are in no sense true refugees, according to world standards and social-economic reality.

In the past ninety years, more than 130 million refugees around the world, mainly from Europe and Asia, of which 640,000 were Palestinians – only one half of one percent of world refugees. This is the correct proportion. Of all the millions of people who became refugees, the only ones who still count themselves as refugees and who live at the expense of the nations of the world are the Palestinians. Over 90% of the refugees in the world have been rehabilitated, residing in the places where they resettled. The enormous donations to the Palestinians are unfortunately earmarked mainly for corruption and terrorism. Those who are in need in Asia and Africa receive nothing. The poverty, misery and wretchedness are really there, mainly in Africa, but only the Palestinians get the world’s political, social and financial attention. The Palestinians live off the world’s charity at the expense of those who are truly in need of that charity.

One example of the so many of this tragedy is sufficed to illuminate the sick situation, and it comes precisely from a Muslim state: Pakistan. In August 2010 there were huge areas flooded in Pakistan, causing at least twenty million refugees without any means of living. It was defined by the UN “the greatest humanitarian disaster.” However, except of lip service declarations, including the UN Secretary General calling the world to donate money, the UN itself did nothing to treat these miserable refugees as compare to what the Palestinians get regularly. The same situation occurred in 2009, where two millions of Pakistanis run away from their homes in Swat region taken by the Taliban, without even water to drink, but with the same pattern of the UN: doing nothing. The UN High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, described the displacement crisis as “one of the most dramatic in recent times,” but except of these high words UNHCR did very little to assist and sustain them.

There are almost hundred countries in the world whose economic and social situation is much more severe than that of the Palestinians, Arab states included, with no attention let alone assistance of the world. The Palestinian GNP in year 2000 was 1600 US$, higher than Arab states and most of the Third World Countries. Concerning the contemporary so-called humanitarian situation in Gaza, it is higher than those state that cry out to sent aid flotilla, like Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. The GNH (Gross National Happiness) of the Palestinians is higher than most Arab states, including Turkey, and almost all Third World countries.

More illuminating and disturbing data give proportion to the Palestinian situation: a) at any given moment there are 15 to 25 million refugees living ‘outside of their border’ according to UN definition, without food and shelter, in conditions far direr than the Palestinians; b) there are almost two hundred national-ethnic peoples in the world begging desperately for statehood, who do not wish to gain their independence at the cost of ruining other nation; c) one third of world population drink polluted water, most of them drink water that endanger their health, and every minute 8000 children die solely from drinking polluted water; d) one quarter of world populations have no toilets at home and use holes in a field; e) there are 240 million slave-children around the world, including many from Muslim countries; f) there are, according to UNICEF and the International Woman Research, 51 million child-brides, all from Islamic countries, most of them are sexually harassed and beaten regularly, including one hundred million mutilated women.

The Palestinians are not included in this long poor miserable list.

There are three categories of refugees, according to the United Nations: refugees from all over the world; Palestinian refugees; and Jews refugees — with a totally different treatment. The first category is the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with refugees from all over the world, with the aim to give them a basic treatment, and to find quick and safe shelter for them, so that they are integrated or settled down as soon as possible. Those refugees are discouraged to remain refugees and to quickly find other accommodation alternatives. The budget allocated of UNHCR is 1.5 billion US$, with 6300 working personnel.

The second category is the Palestinian refugees. They are a special, privileged class. There is a special, separate UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), whose principal duty is to perpetuate their status as refugees forever; to prevent any attempt to settle them down; to provide them, their children and the next generations to come special humanitarian social, economic, and welfare treatment. From 640 thousand refugees in 1948, UNRWA supports now more than five million so-called Palestinian refugees. For that, it is the largest organization of the UN’s, with more than 28 thousand working personnel, 90 percent of them are Palestinians, and 1.1 billion US$ budget.

Under the humanitarian cover, UNRWA acts as a political organ, a giant pressure group for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee’s situation. Its activity is counterproductive in terms of the possibility of resolving the Palestinian refugee problem, by relegating them to a state of passivity and dependency. Yet it is much worse. All educational system and schools run by UNRWA actively serve as greenhouses for praising terrorism as a source of hideous hatred and demonism against Israel and the Jews, and active bases of terrorism instruction and operations. The money donated by the Western states that defines Hamas and other groups as terrorist organizations goes to terrorism; the food supply serve Hamas activity; its warehouses stores weapons; and its workers drive terrorists and weapons with the cars and ambulances of UNRWA. Taken the huge money pour upon them, there is absolutely no motivation of the Palestinians to handle the issue and to recover out of the refugee status.          

The third category is the Jews. Nobody took care about them after the Second World War, and nobody even knows there was a Jewish refugee problem. After the establishment of the State of Israel, a million of Jews became refugees in many Arab lands, and had to leave their houses and huge property in Arab countries and to flee to Israel, where they have been fully absorbed. None of these Jewish refugees were helped by the United Nations. All were set¬tled long ago in their new environments, without being parasites of the world.

The following examples put the Palestinian refugees in perspective:

In April 2004, the UN General Assembly decided that it is impossible to implement the rights of the two hundred thousand Greeks and the fifty thousand Turks to return to their homes in partitioned Cyprus, because “the new reality which has been created” must be taken into consideration. However, this stand of the UN is totally different concerning the Palestinian refugees.

Following World War II, 11 million Germans were expelled from their homes in the Sudetenland, in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, and were force-marched to Germany. Two million died on the way, but the others were absorbed in Germany. In 2004, few of them were seeking to return to their homes, not demanding to dissolve the country from which they were deported; not demanding to replace it; and not demanding money compensation. In August 2004, the German government determined they have no right of return even no reparation. However, the attitude of Germany and the EU towards the Palestinian refugees is totally different.  

In 1968, the British Government exiled 5,000 of the residents of the Island of Diego Garcia, for the purpose of constructing an American air base. In 2003, the exiled residents demand to return to their homes in the island. Their demand was rejected by the British High Court of Justice that ruled out that the residents have neither the right to return nor to receive compensations. However, the British stand toward the Palestinian refugee problem is different.    

Now the question is that out of all the misery and suffering in the world, and year 2010 is notoriously known of huge disasters culminating in tragedies almost everywhere, the world is busy with the false detached “humanitarian situation in Gaza” and the need of “rescue flotillas” for the Palestinians? Why the world is silent while there are more than a billion poor and miserable starving and dying people around the world, the Palestinians continue to receive billions of dollars yearly? This immoral and unjustified flow money continues even when the donating countries and the UN clearly know that large part of it goes to produce terrorism against Israel and increased corruption among the Palestinians.

Why the Kurds, 25 million people living in the same Middle East, have no state of their own and nobody cares about their situation? Why the Christians, the original population in most of the Arab states, have become extinct species and nobody cares about their miserable fate, while the Palestinians are treated and sustained as if they are the last and only people with denied national aspirations?

The Issue of Jerusalem

The Palestinian propaganda declares: Jerusalem has no sanctity whatsoever for the Jews; the Jewish Temple was in Nablus and not in Jerusalem; the Western Wall is part of the Wall of al-Aqsa Mosque, and the whole area of Jerusalem exclusively belongs to the Palestinians, and no stone in it has any connection to the Jews. Al-Quds University posts a History of Jerusalem in which the Jewish narrative is a ‘myth’; that King David, whose very existence is questioned, was probably part of an idealized community of “Israelites” that had no connection to Jerusalem; that those “Israelites” never experienced an exodus from Egypt, a story appropriated from a Canaanite legend; that Joshua’s conquest never took place; that Solomon’s Temple was actually a center of pagan worship; and that the Western Wall was part of a Roman fortress. In the al-Quds history of Palestine, Jews are not mentioned.

`Abd al-Rahim Barkat, of the Islamic Movement in Israel:

The imaginary tale regarding the Temple of Jerusalem is a lie, a crime, and the most enormous forgery in history… the existence of the Holy Temple is not based on any historical or archeological testimony and simply does not exist except in the minds of the Jews. Jerusalem in its entirety belongs to the Muslims and Jews have no relationship whatsoever to that city.

Dr. Hassan Khadir, founder of the al-Quds Encyclopedia:

The Jewish connection to this site is a recent one, began in the 16th century. It is not ancient like the roots of the Islamic connection. The Jewish connection to this site is a fabricated one. The true name of the Western Wall is the al-Buraq, named after Muhammad’s horse which was tied to the wall. Who would have believed that the Israelis would arrive 1400 years later, conquer Jerusalem, and make this wall into their special place of worship.

PLO official, Dr. Ghazi Hussein:

Israel has been perpetrating against the Palestinian crimes far worse than those committed by Nazi Germany. The Judaization of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi [the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron] and the Bilal bin Rabbah mosque [Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem], and the claim to build the false Jewish temple and to Judaize the al-Aqsa mosque prove the Jewish ethnic cleansing policy.

This sheer distorted scientific and twisted history is answered in details: Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an, the Hadeeth and the Seerah. Never in history had Jerusalem occupied a place of importance in Islam, even as a religious site. It was never considered to be a holy city and no religious institutions were established there, and never became a regional or national capital in Muslim history. The ‘awakening’ of the Palestinians is purely political, against the State of Israel, with the objective to de-legitimize its existence and to refute its legal claims.

The Land of Israel was conquered by the Muslims in 634 CE by `Umar bin-Khattab, but the Muslims did not bother to conquer Jerusalem until four years later. That is certainly an indication of the importance of Jerusalem as far as Islam is concerned. Had Jerusalem been of any real significance, it certainly would have been conquered earlier.

When the invading Muslims entered Jerusalem, they signed a Dhimma (a capitulation for security) agreement with the Christians and left it. `Umar Bin al-Khattab did not recognize any special significance of Jerusalem, and decided to make Caesarea the capital of the region. If the al-Aqsa mosque indeed was located on the Temple Mount, could we imagine that he would belittle it and deny the validity of its source in the Qur’an? If it had any religious, even political importance could we imagine how the Muslims treated Jerusalem for generations?

If Jerusalem was important to the Umayyads, why they made Damascus the capital of their dynasty and not Jerusalem? And if it was important to Islam after the Crusaders built their “kingdom of Jerusalem,” why the Muslims did not do anything to materialize Jerusalem’s importance? And if Jerusalem was important during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, why science and politics know nothing of this?

Apparently the Muslims did not think of any importance, as they called Jerusalem “Iliyas,” the Arabized form of the Latin “Aelia”. Afterwards, the city was called Bayt al-Maqdis, from the Hebrew Beit ha-Mikdash. From the 10th century, the Muslims used a shortened version of al-Quds (the Hebrew word of Kodesh, holy).

The only reference in the Qur’an regularly employed by Muslims is the first verse in Surat Bani Isra’il, 17:1 as if al-Aqsa located in Jerusalem:

Glory to (Allah) who took his servant for a journey by night from the sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts we did bless…

This verse, Isra’, is connected to Mi’ragh verses, that describe how Muhammad had visions at night in which he hovers with the Angel Gabriel through the seven worlds while riding on the horse al-Buraq and returns to Mecca the same night. On his way he meets the prophets: Adam, St. John and Jesus, Joseph, Idris, Aaron, Moses and Abraham.

Flying horses, flying dragons and gods able to fly, were common myths centuries before Muhammad. The whole story may have been influenced by the story of the prophet Elijah who flew into heaven in a burning chariot pulled by horses. Long before Elijah story, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. In other words, the story of Muhammad has its source in the Hebrew Bible. He intended to reach heaven in order to behold Allah. There was nothing else, surely not Jerusalem.

Moreover, the territory of the Land of Israel could not be called “al-Aqsa,” which means the far-away land, since its geographical proximity to Arabia. The Land of Israel is called in the Qur’an al-Ard al-Adna, the “nearby land,” closest to Mecca and Medina. However, an interesting approach is given by the Egyptian, Ahmad Muhammad `Arafa. He claims that Muhammad’s night journey refers to the Hijrah of the prophet from Mecca to Medina. The journey was not to Jerusalem but to Medina. The word Isra’ in Arabic that appears in the Qur’an means “to move secretly from a dangerous location to a safe place.” In that way the prophet obeyed the instructions of Allah to the effect that Mecca was dangerous, his enemies were plotting to kill him, and he was to escape secretly at night to Medina. Muhammad’s praise for Allah, referred to demonstrate the importance of the event for Mohammad.

The Caliph `Abd al-Malik (685-705) built the Dome of the Rock, in 691, as to elevate and sanctify Jerusalem, since the Umayyads could not reach Mecca for the pilgrimage. His son, al-Walid, constructed the mosque called al-Aqsa on the ruins of the Jewish Temple Mount in 715. The “Praise of Jerusalem” literature (Fada’il al-Quds), that emerged for political reasons during the Umayyad dynasty, disappeared, and a new contradictory literature appeared that belittled the importance of the city. The Hanbali exegete, Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), is identified with this trend: directing prayer toward Bayt al-Maqdis was nullified, being an apostasy (Irtidad). In 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed and no one bothered to restore it as a holy site of worship. Jerusalem once more fell into awe of neglect and oblivion. Damascus, Cairo, Constantinople and other centers were considered to be of much higher religious significance than Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was forgotten until the 20th century. It was “revealed” from the second half of 1920’s, by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini; then by King Abdallah of Transjordan; and culminated with Yasser Arafat. all of them prove the historical rule: Jerusalem is important in Islam only from its political role, when others control it, and to enhance political ambitions and identification.

Why the Palestinian Propaganda Succeeds?

Now, the question is why the Palestinians succeed in their propaganda full of uncorroborated and unsubstantiated facts as to divert world public opinion from reality? The answer lies in the following syndromes:

The first is the Ignorance-Disinformation Syndrome (IDS). Most of the people, even those who have constant information of the situation, are not acquainted enough and do not know the details and the characteristics of the conflict, mainly because of cultural barriers. One cannot avoid detecting the incredible amount of ignorance regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so, when one pours highly concentrated disinformation to the ignorant, the success is surely his.

Disputes about opinions and views when the facts are known is understandable; different views in describing facts are reasonable, since history is not an exact science; even Rashomon of telling different stories is acceptable. But, the fact is that so much disinformation has been poured so many years and by so many educated and intelligent people, is amazing. Distortions, misconceptions, and unadulterated lies are common, so that it became the whole truth.

Why do the Palestinians twist the reality? It is because they know their case is weak and unconvincing; because this is a cultural syndrome proven in Islamic history when relating to the other; because this is the message of the Qur’an that for the promotion of Islamic interests cheating and deceiving are permitted, and mainly because they wish not a compromised solution, but want it all. Why do they continue lying? Because they have solid proofs that their lies succeed, and world public opinion, leaders and the media, do not condemn them. James Baldwin, the American author has put this syndrome as follows:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

This is the reason why Goethe had reiterated the idea:

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

This is why Alan Dershowitz has put it so succinctly:

When the best are accused being the worst, you have to look at the accusers.

To make the situation even more complicated, there is the Mirror Image Syndrome (MIS), the twisted psychological behavioral and conceptual lenses through which we look into the situation and interpret it. This is perhaps our most lethal enemy, proven through historical research by Barbara Tuchman; through psychological research by Norman Dixon and through surprise attacks and misconceptions research. We analyze the situation and relate to our enemy through our own values and conceptions. However, what if our enemy is different from us culturally and conceptually? What if he is devoted to achieve his goals by all means we do not even appreciate politically and understand culturally? What if we play Checkmate while he plays Sheshbesh?

Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the Aggressiveness-Victimhood as against Political Correct Syndrome (AVPCS). That means, understanding the ramifications of Arab-Islamic cultural phenomenon of victimhood as against Western politically correct approach. The Western trauma of politically correct of not to offend the other and to act according to fashion goes exactly with the Muslim demand of honor and not to be offended, being a supremacist religion. The Arab-Muslims raise to unprecedented extremes their sensibilities; they immediately declare they are offended almost on every realm and every issue in day by day life. This situation, in its turn, deepens Western politically correct approach, and that process end with capitulation and apologies.

Whatever they do; no matter how aggressive is their behavior; how deep and horrible the atrocious violence they exhibit — from Arab-Muslim perspective, they are always the innocent victims who only defend their honor, their life and their land. This is a very well-known syndrome of the Arab-Islamic cultural trait of crying out and complaint (I`rad Baka’- Shaqa’), which is exemplified by the Arab saying: Darabni wa-Baka, Sabaqani wa-Shtaka (he hit me and cried out, he overtook me and grumbled). Add to this the Judeo-Christian guilt remorse, of internalizing the guilt, and the Arab-Islamic cultural syndrome of externalizing the guilt, and the result is clear: Arab Muslims win the situation, and Western civilization capitulates.

However, the most important is the leading scientific culture syndrome of the ‘post’ era, of ‘post imperialism’, ‘post modernism,’ ‘post colonialism,’ and relativism. This has become the new ideology, the god of new Western scientific era. Pascal Bruckner has called the Western intelligentsia’s new form as “tyranny of guilt,” a self-effacement of Western masochism that forbids any critical inquiry into the historical narratives of national movements granted the sanctified status of “oppressed.” The Nakbah narrative cannot even be challenged. This is the horrible legacy of Edward Said’s atrocious approach of Orientalism, which was criticized harshly, among many others, by Bernard Lewis and Ibn Warraq. This approach has become a highly sophisticated grand strategy built on the foundations laid down by Said: all you have to win over is to disqualify, to invalidate and to delegitimize the other, whatever the circumstances, the situation and reality are. This one-sided totality, this black and white absoluteness, is one of the conspicuous cultural traits of Islam.

The dire situation inherited from Said’s legacy is that contemporary Western research of the Middle East and Islam suffers from fear and dictation, out of post-colonial and guilt remorse and inferiority complex. According to this, one must accept the Middle East as is and must absolutely refrain of any judgment (but unfortunately and so tragically not Africa and Third World countries; only the Middle East!). This means that only the post-modernists, and of course Arabs and Muslims, hold the pure true academic indisputable knowledge of that field. Anyone who dares criticizing Arabs and Islam is being immediately accused outright as racist, colonialist and Islamophobe.

These are the basic reasons for the successful Palestinian’s propaganda of twisting reality and winning world public opinion’s stand. Of course, there is room for criticism on all sides. No one is solely righteous and no one is totally guilty of the situation. However, there is hardly such a case in which history has been so thoroughly written upside down and facts have been so profoundly manipulated as by the Palestinians. One day historians will devote in-depth many volumes studies of how did the Palestinians succeed in fooling so many people in such a long time, without the entire world standing up and crying out: enough is enough. Indeed, one can safely say: you can fool most of the people all the time; you can fool all the people most of the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time – unless you are the Palestinians.

Summary

The Palestinians should look into the mirror and honestly ask: why there is no Palestinian state today? Is it Israel’s refusal, or their leadership’s obstinacy demanding ‘all or nothing,’ and out of inter-Arab rivalries? The Palestinians could have established their state according to UN partition plan of November 1947 (decision 181), with a bigger territory than Israel. The Arabs could have conclude peace with Israel after 1948, instead of armistice agreements and establish a state for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, as most of contemporary plans are aimed to. However, unfortunately, both the Palestinian leadership and Arab states declined. The real question is whether the Palestinians are ready to establish a state on the 1967 borders, and to recognize Israel’s legitimacy by declaring the end of hostilities. Unfortunately, all indicators are clear, they do not, and they still believe they can achieve it all.

One of the main reasons for their stubbornness is the political support, almost blindly and totally, they get from the international system, mainly from Europe and the UN. The international community has emboldened them into believing that Israel can be delegitimized and weakened through international pressure. All the Palestinians need is to hold out long enough for achieving their ultimate goal. This situation of putting their case above most of world issues, as if their case is solved all other issues coming from the Middle East, including the Islamic immigration, are solved, is disastrous for the world; counter-productive for the Palestinians; and lethal to the existence of Israel.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is and has always been based on Palestinian and Arab opposition to Jewish statehood. There is mainly one cause to the continuation of this conflict, which is buried beneath an avalanche of media coverage and politicians’ declarations designed to obfuscate and confuse reality — the refusal to come to terms with Israel’s existence as a Jewish Zionist state. Indeed, this conflict is not about the right of self-determination of the “Palestinian,” but rather it is about Jewish self-determination; it is not about Israel’s stubbornness and rejection of a “Palestinian state,” but rather about Arab and Palestinian stubborn rejection of Jewish statehood; it is not about Israel’s refusal to compromise, the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties clearly prove it, but about the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to compromise and to recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Under these circumstances, it is unreasonable to anticipate a change in the Palestinian and Islamic behavior towards Israel, unless their leaderships decide to change their policies, methods, textbooks and verbal messages. The education for hatred for Jews and for Israel lies at the root of the issues. The Nazi and Japanese analogy is most instructive. As long as racism and militarism was the basis of Nazi and Japanese society, both could not enter the modern democratic world. The Allied powers, headed by the US, understood that the military defeat is not enough, and imposed a radical change on Nazi and Japanese societal values, education and politics. Germany and Japan were forced to abandon their ancient tradition of nationalistic racism and militarism and to embrace an open system of democracy. Only then were they able to become democratic and technologically advanced nations. This must be applicable, first and foremost to the Palestinians, who are spoiled by the blind international support (and to the Muslims at large concerning the West).  

Professor Fuad Ajami, of John’s Hopkins University, clearly has stated: an accommodation with Israel is imperative, but the Palestinian leaders still demanding to have it all, ‘from the river to the sea.’ The Arab states have compounded the Palestinian radicalism, granted them everything and nothing at the same time, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to moderation and realism. The Palestinians should know better, aside from a handful of the most messianic Israelis and Europeans, there is a recognition that the Palestinians must come to term with reason and live in peace with Israel, or to drop off the history.  

In his the Missing Peace, the American Diplomat, Dennis Ross, noticed the salient fact that for the Arabs, any Israeli withdrawal and relinquishment is not enough. The revolutionary change is yet to come for the Arab world to recognize Israeli needs, let alone its existence. It is not enough to sit at the negotiation table and to talk peace and yet to maintain a different atmosphere in the streets, in the media and politics. Without a real change in Arab-Islamic political culture, it is highly doubtful that the Middle East is on the path of change towards peace. On the contrary, it is still a huge barrier to peace, as much as to democracy and civil rights. The Middle East, Ross concludes, is going backwards and not progressing, with a continued militancy of Islamism. This is of course, exactly the case of the Palestinians.

Western public opinion is ignorant of the so pervasive cultural behavior of Arab-Islamic dualism. The reason is that one of the main aspects is dualism in language. The Palestinian Authority preaches peace in English and incites war in Arabic. The contradiction between what it says in English to the Western audience and what it says in Arabic is overwhelming. As Steven Simpson has put it, the fact is that the Palestinians and the Muslims at large still point to these hateful verses in the Qur’an, should give us a pause to consider if there can ever be true peace between Muslims and Jews. In the religious and cultural context, let alone the national territorial rivalry, the Palestinians cannot accept a Jewish state, and the big question under these circumstances, is it likely that true peace will reign in the Land of Israel?

Where did the name Palestine come from?

The Philistines were not native to Israel, in fact, as their name implies, they came from somewhere from the Greek Islands, most likely Crete. Obviously, they did not speak Arabic and they were not Semitic like Jews and Arabs. That is why the Romans chose to eradicate the name Judea by implementing foreign outside name.

From the fifth century BCE, the Greeks called the eastern coast of the Mediterranean “Philistine Syria” using the Greek language form of the name. In the year135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to wipe out the name of the Roman “Provincia Judaea” and so renamed it “Provincia Syria Palaestina”,

Therefore, if any, the Jews are the Palestinians, NOT anybody else.

“The British chose to call the land they mandated Palestine, and very later the local Arabs who picked it up as their supposed ancient name, though they couldn’t even pronounce it correctly and turned it into Filastin.”

So where did these so called “Palestinians” come from?

On March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with P.L.O. executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. In which he said he said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel… Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

Can the Muslims claim the land through Ishmael?

Some people including many Muslims stake a claim for the Arabs through the line of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and his wife’s Egyptian servant Hagaar. The thinking is that if God promised Abraham that his family would be a blessing to the whole earth and that anyone who blessed them would be blessed and those who cursed them would be cursed, that must include the children of Ishmael who in fact was Abraham’s first son. That theory does make sense using man’s logic. The truth is that God made an executive decision to separate the children of Yitsak (Isaac) from the Children of Ishmael. It doesn’t sound fair does it? But who are we to question the Wisdom of the Almighty? Take a look at Genesis 17:18-21.

So God, Himself, refused to give the Abrahamic Blessing to Ishmael and the Arabs. Muslims have their own story of this covenant. They believe that Ishmael received the Covenant. They also claim that it was Ishmael who was taken and almost sacrificed by Abraham on Mount Moriah, later to be called the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. But remember one thing, the Bible was written thousands of years before Mohammed was born and he and the other Muslims scribes took the parts of the Bible and other books that they liked and changed the parts they did not like in the seventh and eighth centuries.

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Middle East

Is Iran Testing Trump With Little Attacks in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf?

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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Authors: Anne Speckhard, Ardian Shajkovci

The sound of an explosion echoed through the Green Zone on Sunday night around 9:00 p.m., a reminder that this most secure part of the Iraqi capital is not, in fact, all that safe. The projectile appears to have been aimed at the United States embassy and, after the blast, embassy sirens went off, accompanied by repeated warnings blaring on loudspeakers instructing everyone to take immediate cover.

Within the hour the missile was reported to have been fired from the Amana bridge in Baghdad, missing its likely intended target and landing in an empty field near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with no casualties reported.

But for a brief and highly fraught moment alarms were going off in Washington, as well, where the much-publicized threat of Iranian “proxy” attacks on U.S. interests and personnel, and the American response positioning bombers and aircraft carriers, have conjured the specter of a new Middle Eastern war. One breaking news service breathlessly reported National Security Adviser John Bolton “just seen arriving at the White House amid rocket attack possibly aimed at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

President Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” It is not clear if he was responding to the rocket, a Katyusha that might have been fired by any number of players in Iraq, or to threatening rhetoric by some Iranian officials, or both.

In any case, non-essential American personnel at the embassy had already been ordered to depart days earlier, many moving to posts in nearby countries to continue their work, and the U.S. embassy was already expecting a possible attack.

Our team of researchers for the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) landed in Baghdad on May 14, 2019, the day before the U.S. State Department issued the security alert to the “non-essentials” in Baghdad and Erbil, recommending they “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible, avoid U.S. facilities within Iraq, monitor local media for updates, review personal security plans, remain aware of surroundings.”

An earlier security alert on May 12 advised all U.S. citizens of heightened tensions in Iraq and the requirement to remain vigilant. It recommended not traveling to Iraq, avoiding places known as U.S. citizen gathering points, keeping a low profile and, once again, being aware of your surroundings.

For those of use who have been visiting Iraq since 2006, this seems at once familiar and strange. Is the threat greater now than it was when the U.S. embassy was housed in Saddam’s former palace, and frequently underwent mortar fire? In those days none of the 5,000 embassy personnel were ordered home.

Despite President Trump saying he does not want war, does this action signal that something more than just mortar fire is about to come?

A former senior diplomat who served in Iraq following the 2003 invasion warned that if the U.S. or Israel had decided to launch air strikes on Iran, emptying the embassy might be a smart move.  Iran could strike back at a close and convenient target—the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—and its ballistic missiles would be much more dangerous and difficult to withstand than mortars or Katyushas.

According to a senior official in the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) the rocket Sunday night was launched by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah. If it came on Iranian orders, the lone, ineffectual projectile may have been intended as a pin-prick provocation testing reactions without triggering full-fledged war. Other recent incidents—a drone attack on a Saudi pipeline; minor explosions on Saudi and other oil tankers—could fall into the same category.

Iraq, liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein by the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, has come under increasing Iranian influence ever since, and the Iran-backed militias played a key role fighting the so-called Islamic State after the national army virtually imploded in 2014. They have since become a major element in the Iraqi defense apparatus, even though some 5,000 U.S. military personnel are on the ground training and working with other elements of the Iraqi military.

The threat inside Iraq to U.S. personnel was revealed in part to Iraqi leaders during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s surprise visit here on May 7.

The secretary is reported to have told Iraqi officials that U.S. intelligence detected that Iranian-backed militias moving missiles near bases housing American forces. Reuters reported that, according to a senior Iraqi official privy to the substance of the talks, Pompeo asked the Iraqi government to rein in the Shiite militias. Pompeo also expressed U.S. concern about these militias’ increased presence and influence in Iraq and warned that the U.S. would use force to tackle the security threats if necessary, without first consulting Baghdad.

Iraq’s pro-Iranian military factions have long been a concern for U.S. personnel deployed in the region. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a radical Shiite militia in Iraq has, for example, long been cooperating with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a group that was just declared by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The newly appointed IRGC leader, Hossein Salami, replied that his people are proud to be called terrorists by President Trump while also threatening the U.S. and Israel.

The Iraqi militia, Nujaba, also was added by the U.S. State Department to the U.S. list of global terrorist organizations on March 7 this year and its leader Akram Kaabi was sanctioned.

Nujaba has been demanding that U.S. troops leave Iraq for quite some time. On May 12, Nujaba’s leaders proclaimed, “Confrontation with the United States will only stop once it is eliminated from the region, along with the Zionist entity,” while also stating that Iraqi resistance factions are ready to target U.S. interests in Iraq.

The Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, which our source says was behind the Sunday night rocket attack, warned in February 2018 that it might engage in armed confrontation with US forces in Iraq at any moment. According to one Iraqi source, the Kataib Hezbollah is one of the militias that recently placed missiles near U.S. military bases.

The New York Times reported the the U.S. government was picking up an increase in conversations between the Revolutionary Guards and foreign militias discussing attacks on American troops and diplomats in Iraq.

The New York Times also reported that American officials cited intelligence from aerial photographs of fully assembled missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf as cause for the U.S. administration to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran. This created concerns that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps would fire them at United States naval ships or American commercial ships.

An Iraqi source confirmed on May 18 that ExxonMobil was evacuating its personnel of 30 to 50 employees from Basra, Iraq, and that the Bahrain embassy had also evacuated its employees from both Iraq and Iran. And U.S. embassies disseminated a warning from the Federal Aviation Agency that U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Persian Gulf risk being misidentified and by implication shot down amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

A potential conflict much larger than Iranian-backed Shia militias throwing mortar fire at the now fortress-like U.S. Embassy appears to be brewing amid credible intelligence coupled with heated anti-American rhetoric.

Yet, security threats to U.S. personnel serving in Iraq are nothing out of the ordinary and date back to the 2003 U.S. invasion. At the height of its activities, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad had thousands of personnel, including contractors. They regularly suffered all sorts of threats from IED attacks when they ventured out on the road, RPG fire when they used helicopters, snipers when they were out in public view and intermittent but regular mortar fire that rained down on the temporary trailers that served as housing near the old Saddam palace where they worked. One mortar penetrated a window to the bathroom of the Deputy U.S. Ambassador’s office, situated inside the palace, destroying the brick wall around the window. It was later bricked up completely. The walkway from the trailers to the palace was mortared so often and so hard that it was nicknamed “death alley” by embassy personnel serving there.

While embassy personnel received danger and hardship pay, none were ordered home during those years, and danger was considered a part of the assignment. IED’s and mortars occasionally killed embassy personnel, but that did not stop the mission.

At present, the U.S. Embassy Baghdad is housed in a complex on a closed street that only badged officials can enter. The grounds are heavily walled walled and difficult to enter and inside, the buildings appear strongly built to withstand assault.

In Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, which also fell under the non-essential personnel evacuation order, a restaurant nearby was attacked by a car bomb in 2015, killing three non-Americans. But, while less robustly built, the consulate also is behind a concrete walled-off security space.

U.S. Embassy diplomatic personnel posted in both Baghdad and Erbil infrequently leave their fortresses and when they do travel around Iraq, their security requirements require using armored cars, wearing bullet proof vests and flack helmets and traveling with armed security guards, sometimes with chase and lead cars in a convoy.

Likewise, U.S. Embassy Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil are not family postings—diplomatic personnel serve for one or two years, leaving their family members behind.

The new embassy building, not far from the old one, was planned during the time of frequent attacks and was undoubtedly built to withstand mortar storms. Long and short-range ballistic missiles however constitute a whole different threat and it’s not publicly known if the new embassy has bomb-hardened resistant bunkers to protect embassy personnel.

Whether U.S. embassy non-essential personnel will return to post anytime soon remains to be seen, and given the dangers such personnel have faced in the past and the fortress in which they currently serve, why they were really ordered home is also still an unanswered question. With ships coming to the region and troops readying for potential travel, serious troubles may well be on the horizon.

While the saber rattling on both sides continues, Baghdad has also made clear that it doesn’t want to become the battlefield.

Author’s note: first published in the Daily Beast

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Middle East

Iran vs. US: Bracing for war?

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On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, and imposed tough unilateral sanctions on Tehran. Exactly a year later, this move looks dangerously fraught with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences for the Middle East.

Britain, France and Germany, as participants and co-sponsors of the JCPOA, strongly criticized Trump’s anti-Iranian policy and, with Russian and Chinese support, they established, registered and set in motion, albeit in a test mode, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) – a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran.

Tehran took its time hoping for European support. However, on April 22, 2019, Trump ended waivers that Washington had earlier granted China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan that allowed these countries to import Iranian oil. A complete ban on the purchase of Iranian crude came into force on May 2, 2019. The United States’ ultimate goal is to stop all Iranian crude exports. Whether this is actually possible is not clear. What is clear, however, is that the US is ramping up economic pressure on Tehran.

Meanwhile, Europe will hardly be able to resist Washington’s sanctions against Iran, which are almost as hard-hitting as the ones that were in effect between 2012 and 2016 when the Iranian economy was going through hard times. Still, the EU’s foreign affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini recently went on record saying that “we will continue to support [JCPOA] as much as we can with all our instruments and all our political will.”

Just how much will the EU really has to resist US pressure is a big question though.

Iran found itself in a real fix with President Hassan Rouhani saying that the situation the country is in today is no different from what it experienced during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

“During the war, we had no problems with our banks, oil sales, imports and exports. There were only sanctions for the purchase of arms,” he noted.

Hassan Rouhani emphasized the US sanctions’ strong impact on the country, and called for a concerted effort by all to minimize their effect.

“The enemies’ sanctions against our banking sector also affect our oil, petrochemicals, steel and agricultural exports, impair the work of Iranian seaports, shipyards and sea carriers. Our shipping companies have been blacklisted by the US Treasury,” Rouhani added.

He said that Iran would not bow to US pressure and will be looking for a way out of this situation.

What can Iran do?

First, it could exit the nuclear deal. Not immediately, like the US did, but gradually, refusing to fulfill the specific terms of the accord. Iran is already doing this now.

On May 8, President Rouhani announced that Iran would no longer observe two key commitments under the JCPOA accord, namely to sell to Russia and the US uranium enriched to 3.76 percent at volumes exceeding the storage allowed in Iran (over 300 kilograms). By the time the JCPOA was signed in 2015, the Islamic Republic had accumulated 10,357 kilos of such low-grade uranium, and 410.4 kilos of uranium enriched to 20 percent. To date, Iran has destroyed its entire stock of 20-percent-enriched uranium and has shipped surplus low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and the United States. According to the JCPOA, Tehran was allowed to enrich limited quantities of uranium for scientific purposes and sell any enriched uranium above the 300-kilogram limit on international markets in return for natural uranium. Now Iran will start stocking up on low-enriched uranium again. 

Neither will Tehran consider itself committed to the caps agreed under the deal on the mandatory sale of excess heavy water used in the production of military-grade plutonium. Iran has a working facility to produce heavy water, which is not covered by the JCPOA. However, it can store no more than 130 tons of heavy water. Tehran has already exported 32 tons to the US and 38 tons to Russia. Now it will start storing heavy water again.

President Rouhani gave the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal 60 days to make good on their promises to protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors. The Iranian move is certainly not directed at Washington but, rather, at Brussels in order to make it more actively and effectively resist US sanctions or see Iran resume higher levels of uranium enrichment, potentially all the way to bomb-making capability.  

He added that if the EU fails to address Iran’s concerns, Tehran will suspend the implementation of two more commitments under the JCPOA.

If its demands are not met, Tehran will no longer be bound by its commitment to enrich uranium up to 3.76 percent. Ali-Akbar Salehi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in January that the country had already taken the necessary steps to resume enrichment in larger volumes and with a higher level of enrichment.

Tehran will also reject help from the 5+1 group of initiators of the JCPOA (Russia, US, Britain, France, China and Germany) in the reconstruction of the heavy water reactor in the city of Arak.

The R-1 heavy water reactor was designed to produce up to 10 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium a year, which is enough to build two plutonium nuclear weapons. The terms of the JCPOA accord require redesigning the reactor in such a way as to make it incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. To oversee the process, they set up a working group of representatives of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the Atomic Energy Authority of China and the US Department of Energy. In 2017, a UK representative moved in to fill the void left by the departing US representative. According to an official Iranian report issued in April 2018, the country had already completed a “conceptual reconstruction of the reactor.”  Still, the reconstruction process is slow and can easily be reversed. At least for now.

If, however, the EU comes across, then, according to Hassan Rouhani, Iran will honor its commitments under the JCPOA deal. “If [the five JCPOA co-signatories] could protect our main interests in oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one [and will resume our commitments],” Rouhani said.

The question is whether the European Union can fully activate INSTEX and  ensure continued oil exports and imports. Many people doubt this.

According to analysts, by demanding that Europeans “bring down to zero” their purchases of Iranian oil, the United States threatened to slap sanctions on European companies paying for Iranian oil. Shortly afterwards, almost all European banks refused to finance Iranian crude imports. The EU thus inadvertently joined the US sanctions, even though it continued to stick to the terms of the JCPA accord.

At the same time, European companies were all too happy to go ahead with the implementation of the part of the agreement that had not yet been banned, selling unauthorized goods to Iran. Tehran then complained that the deal allowed Europeans to make money inside Iran while preventing Iranians from selling their oil in the EU – a violation of the fundamental provision of the nuclear accord.

Tehran’s threat to walk out of the 2015 nuclear deal is sending a clear signal to the dithering Europeans to resume Iranian oil imports or see Tehran restarting nuclear production.

However, preoccupied by more pressing problems, the Europeans have other things to worry about. Moreover, no one is looking for a showdown with the EU’s main ally, the United States. According to Russian Oriental affairs expert Nikolai Kozhanov, Europeans consider the issue of circumventing US sanctions as an important part of their search for a mechanism of counter-sanctions in similar situations with more important economic partners, such as China or Russia.

Therefore, Iran is likely to press ahead with suspending its obligations under the JCPOA, which include the activation and acceleration of R&D in the field of improving centrifuges and building more of them in the future. Tehran could also hold up the implementation of the Protocol Additional to the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Signed in 2003, the Protocol gives the UN nuclear watchdog greater access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and provides for surprise inspections. Iran has not yet ratified this document, even though it fulfilled its requirements until 2006 and has done so since 2016.

Of course, Iran will go about additional suspensions very carefully (if it will at all), mindful of their possible consequences, because it would hate to see Europe turning its back on it and siding with Washington, adding its own sanctions to the American ones, thus essentially making them international.

Ever since the US’ exit from the JCPOA, Iran has issued a flurry of serious warnings that it might end its participation in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the IAEA. On April 28, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went on record saying that Tehran was mulling an exit from the NPT as a response to US sanctions. He added that Tehran “has many options” of response. “Exit from the NPT is one such option,” Zarif noted.

This was only a rhetorical threat, however, meant to prod the European Union towards closer cooperation with Iran as a means of countering US sanctions. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Iran would withdraw either from the NPT or the IAEA, because this could make it an absolute outcast and the butt of scathing criticism worldwide.  

Second, to demonstrate strength and willingness to resist and safeguard the country’s interests. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei never tires of emphasizing the need for a tough policy of “resistance,” based on:

  • an active and effective search for ways to circumvent crippling economic sanctions;
  • strengthening the armed forces with an emphasis on the development of a missile program;
  • active promotion of Iranian interests in the region.

The “resistance” policy is primarily built around the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which brings together the country’s military, intelligence, police, political, ideological, as well as financial and economic structures. The IRGC is actually an all-embracing mega holding, led directly by the Supreme Leader and members of his inner circle. The Revolutionary Guards, who have proved highly efficient in countering sanctions,  modernizing the armed forces and promoting Iranian activities in the region, are all Tehran actually needs to implement a strict “resistance” policy.

With the situation developing as it is, Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent decision to replace the IRGC commander, General Mohammed Ali Jafari, who led the Corps for more than 11 years, with Brigadier General Hossein Salami looks pretty natural. The IRGC’s former deputy commander, General Salami is ideologically closer to Khamenei and is known for his radical statements. Ayatollah Khamenei also replaced about 60 officers both in the IRGC central office and local administrations with relatively young, ambitious, ideologically tested and competent officers. They are tasked with turning the IRGC into an indispensable and all-embracing institution that dominates the entire gamut of Iranian life: from ensuring internal and external security all the way to economic activity and cyberwarfare.

According to Mehdi Khalaji, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Ayatollah Khamenei is strengthening the IRGC, which he sees as the cornerstone of the country’s triad of advanced missile technology, a nuclear program and asymmetric military capabilities to ensure reliable defense against any potential aggression by anyone.

Tehran’s decision to strengthen the IRGC was certainly prompted by President Trump’s statement on April 8, which branded the Corps as a “foreign terrorist organization.” Until recently, President Rouhani sought to keep the IRGC in check and limit its impact on many aspects of the country’s life. In fact, Trump’s recent statement played right into the hands of diehard radicals within the IRGC and in Iran as a whole.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council responded to President Trump’s statement by putting on the list of terrorist organizations the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East and Central Asia. Simultaneously, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said that the Iranian military was ready to use any means at its disposal against US troops in the region who are now likewise designated by Tehran as terrorists. This is putting Americans in peril all across the Middle East region, primarily in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf – wherever Iranian and US military might cross their paths.

Washington’s latest anti-Iranian move seriously exacerbated the already very strained relations between the two countries.

Third. To ramp up anti-American propaganda and warlike rhetoric in order to demonstrate Iran’s strength to the United States and its readiness to defend its interests even with the use of military force.

Increasingly frustrated with the situation around the JCPOA and doubting the EU’s ability to resist the US pressure on Iran, Tehran has been rolling back its participation in the nuclear deal, which is dangerously fraught with a new nuclear crisis and heightened tensions with the United States.

Meanwhile, an escalation is already happening. The United States is sending a battery of Patriot air defense missiles and an amphibious warship, USS Arlington, to CENTCOM’s operational responsibility zone. The Arlington will join a naval strike carrier group led by the world’s largest warship, the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (5,680 crew, 90 combat aircraft and helicopters on board) and a tactical group of B-52 strategic bombers.

Moreover, an updated plan that has just been presented by the Acting US Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, envisions the dispatch of up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran steps up the development of nuclear weapons, or attacks the US military. However, the plan does not provide for a ground operation against Iran, which would require a lot more troops.

Iran has promised serious response to any use of force by the United States, with the IRGC commander, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, warning that “if America takes a step against us, then we will strike a blow to the head.” He believes, however, that the United States will not risk using its aircraft carriers against Iran, and added that since Iran’s defense capabilities are adequate and sufficient, US aircraft carriers are quite vulnerable.

Military experts know better of course, but when it comes to politics, chances of resolving the current crisis between Iran and the United States look pretty slim. In fact, the conflict may be beneficial to both President Trump and the IRGC.

Trump could use the standoff as a chance to show the opposition Democrats how tough he is with Iran, which is equally loathed by his supporters and many of his opponents alike.

Meanwhile, a US military buildup close to the Iranian borders would play right into the hands of local hardliners who have always been up in arms against any negotiations concerning the Iranian nuclear program and the nuclear deal itself.

With the situation favoring the opponents of President Rouhani, the IRGC is ruling out any possibility of negotiations with the US. The head of the IRGC’s political bureau, Yadolla Javani, said that “there will be no negotiations with the Americans,” in a remark that could also be aimed at politicians inside Iran who would like to maintain a dialogue with the US no matter what.

Still, according to unconfirmed reports, the Iranians are negotiating behind closed doors with American representatives in Oman, which is a traditional meeting place for both.

The IRGC needs tensions running high because this is turning it into the country’s foremost institution.

What is also clear is a dangerous psychological war now raging between Washington and Tehran. Just where things may go from now is hard to tell, but it still looks like the sides will not come to blows after all. The Iranian-American brinkmanship with concentrations of troops and military hardware in the region is fraught with unpredictable accidents that can force the parties to go overboard. Hopefully, things will not go beyond bellicose rhetoric.

“There will be no war, the Iranian people have chosen the path of resistance to America, and this resistance will force it to retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, emphasizing, however, that this resistance is not military in nature. Neither side wants a military showdown.

Tehran and Washington realize full well that if the situation comes down to a military flare-up, then this, regardless of the real scale of the fighting, would spell disaster for the entire Middle East with equally dire consequences for the rest of the world.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Middle East

A survey of Arab youth highlights gaps between policies and aspirations

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Results of a recent annual survey of Arab youth concerns about their future suggest that Arab autocracies have yet to deliver expected public services and goods, explain autocratic efforts to promote nationalism, and indicate that jobs and social freedoms are more important than political rights.

The survey provides insights that should inform autocrats’ quest for social and economic reform. It also suggests, together with the intermittent eruption of anti-government protests in different parts of the Arab world, that Western and Middle Eastern interests would be better served by more nuanced US and European approaches towards the region’s regimes.

Western governments have so far uncritically supported social and economic reform efforts rather than more forcefully sought to ensure that they would bear fruit and have been lax in pressuring regimes to at least curb excesses of political repression.

Critics charge that the survey by Dubai-based public relations firm asda’a bcw focussed on the 18-24 age group was flawed because it gave a greater weighting to views in smaller Gulf states as opposed to the region’s more populous countries such as Egypt, used small samples of up to 300 people, and did not include Qatar, Syria and Sudan.

The results constitute a mixed bag for Arab autocrats and suggest that squaring the circle between the requirements of reform and youth expectations is easier said than done and could prove to be regimes’ Achilles’ heel.

A majority of youth, weened on decades of reliance on government for jobs and social services, say governments that are unilaterally rewriting social contracts and rolling back aspects of the cradle-to-grave welfare state, have so far failed to deliver.

Even more problematic, youth expect governments to be the provider at a time that reform requires streamlining of bureaucracies, reduced state control, and stimulation of the private sector.

A whopping 78 percent of those surveyed said it was the government’s responsibility to provide jobs. An equal number expected energy to be subsidized, 65 percent complained that governments were not doing enough to support young families while 60 percent expected government to supply housing.

By the same token, 78 percent expressed concern about the quality of education on offer, including 70 percent of those in the Gulf. Yet, 80 percent of those in the Gulf said local education systems prepared them for jobs of the future as opposed to a regional total of 49 percent that felt education was lagging. Nonetheless, only 38 percent of those surveyed in the Gulf said they would opt for a local higher education.

There appeared to be a similar gap between the foreign and regional policies of governments and youth aspirations.

Assertive policies, particularly by Gulf states, that have fuelled regional conflicts, including wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the Saudi Iranian rivalry and the two-year-old diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar run counter to a desire among a majority of those surveyed to see an end to the disputes. In favour of Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini rulers, 67% of young Arabs see Iran as an enemy.

The survey also suggests that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, contrary to common wisdom, is an issue that resonates. With 79 percent of those surveyed saying they are concerned about the dispute, the question arises whether the Gulf’s rapprochement with Israel and support for US president Donald J. Trump’s peace plan that is widely believed to disadvantage the Palestinians enjoys popular support.

The suggestion that Gulf policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be wholeheartedly supported is bolstered by the fact that the number of people surveyed this year that viewed the United States as an enemy rose to 59 percent compared to 32 percent five years ago.

Similarly, Arab leaders’ reliance on religion as a regime legitimizer and efforts to steer Islam in the direction of apolitical quietism are proving to be a double-edged sword and one probable reason why men like Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman have sought to reduce the role of the religious establishment by promoting hyper-nationalism.

Some two thirds of those surveyed felt that religion played too large a role, up from 50% four years ago. Seventy-nine percent argued that religious institutions needed to be reformed while half said that religious values were holding the Arab world back.

Publication of the survey coincided with the release by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of its 2019 report. The report designated Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s “worst violators” of religious freedoms, highlighting discrimination of Shia Muslims and Christians.

“Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and the judiciary, and lack access to senior positions in the government and military,” the 234-page report said.

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates, accused by human rights groups of systematic violations, are likely to see a silver lining in the survey and a reconfirmation of their policy of economic and relative social liberalism coupled with absolute political control.

Forty-four percent of those surveyed named the UAE as their preferred country as opposed to less than 22 percent opting for Canada, the United States, Turkey or Britain.

In a white paper accompanying the survey, Afshin Molavi, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, concluded that the survey showed that “the demands and dreams of young Arabs are neither radical nor revolutionary” and that they were unlikely to “to fall for the false utopias or ‘charismatic’ leaders their parents fell for.”

In the words of Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s top Middle East person, “what is needed is a new social contract between MENA (Middle East and North Africa) governments and citizens that ensures accountability, transparency and a commitment to the principle that no one is left behind… The latest youth survey makes clear that we have a long way to go,” Mr. Azour said in his contribution to the white paper.

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