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 , the Mandate for Palestine , 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.
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.
Tunisia between Islamism and the ‘Delta variant’
On Sunday 25 July, on a day dedicated to celebrating the country’s independence, in a move that surprised observers and diplomats alike, Tunisian President Kais Sayed relieved Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who had been in office since September 2020, of his duties. He suspended Parliament’s works and dismissed the Interior and Defence Ministers.
Mechichi, as well as the Speaker of Parliament Rachid Gannouchi, are members of the Islamist Ennhada party which, with 25% of the votes, holds the majority of Parliamentary seats and since 2011, when it returned to legality, has become a powerful political force that has attempted – without resorting to violence – to give secular Tunisia a progressive turn towards the most militant Islamism.
As is well known, Tunisia was the first Muslim country to be crossed by the stormy wind of the “Arab Springs” when, in December 2010, a young fruit and vegetable street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in a square in the centre of Tunis to protest against the corruption of President Ben Ali’s government, in power for 23 years.
The demonstrations that followed the young street vendor’s death led to the ousting of President Ben Ali in January 2011, who was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia with his entire family, as well as to the fall of Mohamed Gannouchi’s government and, in October of the same year, to new elections which saw the success of the religious party, Ennhada, which had been banned by Ben Ali. This triggered a series of political innovations that led – in January 2014 – to the approval of a new constitution that, despite strong Parliamentary pressure from the most radical Islamists, can be considered one of the most progressive in the whole North Africa.
In the five years that followed, Tunisia – amid political and economic ups and downs – maintained a degree of internal stability that enabled it to dampen those Islamist pressures that, in other countries of the region, had turned the so-called “springs” into nightmares marked by unrest and bloody civil conflicts.
Ennhada was gradually integrated into a sort of ‘constitutional arc’, despite the protests of its most radical militants, and its most charismatic leader, Rachid Gannouchi, was even appointed Speaker of Tunis Parliament.
In recent years, however, the country has been afflicted by the problem of corruption of its entire ruling class, including Islamists. It is on a programme platform to fight this phenomenon resolutely and relentlessly that in October 2019 an eminent Law Professor, Kais Sayed, was elected President of the Republic.
In August 2020, President Sayed appointed Mechhichi, a moderate who had already been his political advisor, to form a technocratic government, “free from parties’ influence”.
The situation has seen the establishment of what the Tunisian media call the ‘government of the three Presidents’, namely Sayed (President of the Republic), Mechichi (President of the Council) and Gannouchi who, as Speaker of Parliament, tries to make the majority presence of the Ennhada Islamists in the legislative branch count.
The equilibria are fragile and are made even more precarious by the heavy social and economic consequences of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country.
Since the beginning of this year, Tunisia has been in a state of creeping crisis: the political uncertainty caused by the perennial search for a difficult political and governmental has been compounded by ideological and personal tensions between the “three Presidents”, whose positions on the instruments with which to tackle the pandemic and the economic crisis have gradually exacerbated to the point of producing a situation of political and legislative paralysis that is completely unsustainable.
In recent weeks, the ‘Delta variant’ of the pandemic has caused a spike in infections, causing further damage not only to the population and the health system, but also and above all to the economy of a country that is seeing the possibility of boosting its gross domestic product with tourism disappear for the second year running. For decades tourism has been an irreplaceable source of livelihood and enrichment for large sections of the population. The pandemic crisis has acted as a multiplier of the economic crisis, with the progressive and seemingly unstoppable loss of dinar value and the increasingly acute disparity between the increasingly poor and the increasingly rich people.
The government’s approach to the pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous. While the World Health Organisation declared Tunisia ‘the most infected country in Africa’, the government saw the change of five Health Ministers in succession, each of whom proposed confusing and uncoordinated emergency measures (lockdown, curfew), which were completely ineffective in containing the spread of the virus and the high levels of mortality.
The often improvised and contradictory confinement rules have exasperated the population, who has taken sides with the two parts of the political front: on the one hand, Ennhada’s supporters, who are convinced that the technocratic part of the government is to blame for the health and economic crisis; on the other hand, the secularists, who accuse the Islamists of being the cause of everything and of playing the “so much the worse, so much the better” game to permanently destabilise the institutions and turn Tunisia into an Islamic State.
Ennhada itself has not remained unscathed by internal quarrels and divisions, between the ‘hardliners’ who want the party to return to its militant origins and those who prefer to ‘stay in power and rule’ who – as is currently happening in Italy – prefer to seek stability in the situation and maintain their power positions.
Last May, Abdellhamid Jelassi, the Head of the Ennhada “Council of Doctrine”, resigned accusing the party leader and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Gannouchi, of delaying the date of the Congress in order to avoid his defenestration and the appointment of a successor closer to the original ideas of the movement and to the most radical tenets of Islamic doctrine which, according to the orthodox members, have been betrayed by “those who want to rule” for the sake of power.
It was in that situation of economic, political and social crisis that, invoking Article 80 of the 2014 Constitution, President Sayed dismissed the Prime Minister along with other Cabinet members and suspended Parliament’s works for thirty days.
Many people within the country and abroad, starting with Erdogan’s Turkey, shouted the coup.
In Ankara, the spokesman of the AKP, President Erdogan’s party, defined President Sayed’s actions as “illegitimate” and threatened sanctions against those who “inflict this evil on our brothers and sisters in Tunisia”, while the Turkish Foreign Minister more cautiously confined himself to expressing his “deep concern” over the suspension of Parliamentary activities.
It is significant, however, that on the national front, after the first street protests by Islamists and Ennhada supporters, which were immediately harshly repressed by the police, and after the closure of the offices of the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, which has always fomented Islamist demands, as well as the dismissal of the top management of the state TV, the “crowd” in the streets was dominated by demonstrators who favourably viewed the President’s initiative which, in their opinion, put an end to the activities of that part of the national government that proved totally unable of tackling the pandemic emergency and its negative social and economic consequences.
According to those who claim that what happened on July 25 was not a coup, President Sayed did not dissolve the Tunisian government: he confined himself to dismissing incapable Ministers and leaving those of the ‘technocratic’ wing in place, in the hope of producing a government turn while waiting for Parliament to reopen at the end of August.
The situation is in flux, but it seems to be moving towards stabilisation, which will be speeded up if the Mediterranean countries and the European Union move quickly to help Tunisia get out of the doldrums of the pandemic and economic crisis.
Helping the Tunisian authorities pragmatically to resolve the political crisis is also in the interest of all the countries bordering the Mediterranean, starting with Italy, not only for reasons of good political neighbourhood, but also to prevent a possible Tunisian chaos from triggering a new and uncontrolled migration push. This is what is currently happening in Afghanistan, where, following the ‘unconditional surrender’ of the United States and NATO allies, the Taliban are coming back, with the first consequence of a mass exodus of Afghans to Turkey via Iran.
According to the UNRHC, the United Nations refugee agency, thousands of refugees from Afghanistan are moving towards Turkey at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 people a day: a phenomenon which could soon affect Italy, too.
Politics by Other Means: A Case Study of the 1991 Gulf War
War has been around since the dawn of man and is spawned by innate human characteristics. Often, when efforts at resolving conflicts fail diplomatically (be it at the nation or international level), war is what follows and seemingly the only other option. As Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military commander and military theorist, once said, “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce” and, despite the horror and destruction of war, war is necessary for the conduct of foreign policy. War and physical combat allows for resolutions that cannot come about from any other way, once all legitimate foreign policy tactics have been exhausted. With the U.S. there are an abundant amount of examples showing how direct military conflict has solved a foreign policy problem. The 1991 Gulf War is a prime example.
The Gulf War began in August of 1990, when Iraqi tanks rolled over the Iraqi-Kuwait border, claiming vast oil reserves and annexing the country. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had just come out of the Iran-Iraq War, an almost eight-year, prolonged war of attrition which ended with, “an estimated quarter of a million dead…over 60,000 Iraqis [as] prisoners of war…[and] had run up a debt of over $80 billion…[with] the collapse of world prices meant that Iraq’s oil revenues in 1988 amounted to $11 billion, less than half its 1980 revenue”. Not only this, but Iraq had been fighting what was essentially a civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan, which involved the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The hundred year plus dispute between Iraq and Kuwait about sections of the border with essential waterways leading to the Gulf, the economic hardships and falling price of oil, the U.S. severing ties with the Middle Eastern nation due to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the fear of decreasing power and influence in the region, and the desire to attain the funding for nuclear weapons programs were all central factors in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
International outcry was swift and critical of Saddam’s actions. This was largely due to the fact that Iraq was now closer to Saudi Arabia and the threat of him and Iraq controlling a substantial portion of the world’s oil reserves was very real. Richard Kohn, a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, discussed this with NPR, stating, “The stakes in 1990 and ’91 were really rather enormous. Had Saddam Hussein gotten control of the Saudi oil fields, he would have had the world economy by the throat. That was immediately recognized by capitals around the world”. Immediately following the invasion, on August 03, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iraq withdraw from the country and, when Iraq did not abide by this demand, the UN “imposed a worldwide ban on trade with Iraq (The Iraqi government responded by formally annexing Kuwait on August 8)”. The U.S. too engaged and tried to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait by placing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, utilizing this military presence as a deterrent.
Despite such action by the most powerful international foreign policy and diplomatic body in the globe, and diplomatic action on the part of the U.S. and other foreign nations, war still occurred in January of 1991, which eventually pushed Saddam out of Kuwait via aerial and naval bombardment and, by February, had armor and infantry troops rolling towards Baghdad. The question that remains is, was the war necessary to solving the situation in Iraq and did such military action further international foreign policy goals of the United States?
War was the only other option that the United States could take when dealing with Saddam. The United Nations, the Arab League, and the United States had all vitriolically and openly opposed Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. When Iraq tried to open diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis (while not complying with the UN’s order and keeping troops in Kuwait), the U.S. requested that the Iraqis comply with the decree and pull out of Kuwait, following Margaret Thatcher and Britain’s line of thought that concessions to a dictator would strengthen the Iraqi influence and desire for more power.
While the fact that the United States did not try to pursue a diplomatic avenue with Iraq in this matter is certainly an interesting method, it is also understandable. Giving in to Iraq’s desires and granting them concessions when they had flagrantly disregarded international law and violated the sovereignty of a fellow nation state (in addition to committing horrendous crimes against their own population), capitulating to the Iraqi government would have been a mistake. It would have solidified their power and their influence within the region and would have seemingly legitimized their standpoint.
Not only would negotiating on such terms have legitimized their view and stance, but it effectively would have been negotiating with a terrorist. The former Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1989 to 1991, Joseph C. Wilson, (who would later play a key role in the Plame Affair during the Iraq War), discussed how, “several hundred hostages were held by Saddam, 150 Americans as well as another 70 in our care to keep them out of Iraqi hands…There is no doubt that our personnel and our families were at risk, in considerable danger in fact,”. Hussein’s motivation for holding these Americans and others of varying nationalities (notably British) was most probably to utilize them as a deterrent to an attack from the West. Engaging in capitulation and trying to negotiate with someone who was essentially a terrorist (utilizing terror and violence, or the threat of such action, to attain a political goal) was not something that the United States nor the United Kingdom was willing to do under any circumstances.
The United States, in this instance, was dealing with a terrorist and a dictator, a megalomaniac who was determined to reclaim what he believed was rightfully Iraqi territory and gain access to further wealth through illegal means. The potential of his army in securing what were important and essential global financial centers in the Middle East was serious and it is possible he was planning to invade Saudi Arabia at some point. Saad al-Bazzaz, the former head of both the Iraqi News Agency and the Iraqi Radio and Television Establishment in addition to being an aide to Saddam, alleged in 1996 that, “the Iraqi leader ordered the elite Republican Guard to be ready to launch an offensive…nine days after the invasion of Kuwait…The invasion plans called for four divisions, or 120,000 troops, to thrust into the desert to capture oil fields more than 180 miles away”. The fact that Iraqi troops also, in January of 1991, after the initial aerial bombardment, captured the small, Saudi Arabian coastal city of Khafji, lends credence to the idea that Saddam may have been planning something larger. al-Bazzaz also alleged that Saddam again began planning an invasion of Saudi Arabia while the Battle of Khafji was ongoing, but resorted to defense when it was apparent he would lose Kuwait.
Upon the conclusion of the Gulf War, what did the U.S. gain? One of the most significant achievements in the aftermath of the conflict was that the United States was able to create a coalition of military forces (including those from Middle Eastern nations like Syria and Egypt) to side with other nations (former colonizers like France and the United Kingdom) who are often opposed to their conduct of foreign policy or have fraught relationships. As well, the State Department’s Office of the Historian notes, “Although Russia did not commit troops, it joined the United States in condemning Iraq, its long-time client state”. The Office goes on to describe how Secretary of State Baker and his staff went about gathering allies and were instrumental in assisting in diplomatic and coordination efforts for the eventual air and ground campaign. The U.S. gained improved relationships that bonded by the pursuit of an enemy and the removal of a foreign power from a sovereign nation and were further solidified in the UN’s policing of Iraqi airspace and nuclear deproliferation programs.
Often, wars can be prevented and all out avoided through the use of diplomacy and foreign policy. The Vietnam War, the 1898 Spanish-American War, and the Chaco War of the 1930’s between Bolivia and Paraguay are prime examples of when diplomacy should have been utilized to the fullest effect and in which foreign policy officials and avenues for conflict resolution were not fully considered or utilized. However, in this instance, war was the only viable option for removing Saddam from Kuwait and returning the country to its rightful citizens. Negotiating or trying to work with the Iraqi government on the terms they had decided (meaning working with them in a foreign territory they have illegally acquired) would have given their actions an aura of legitimacy and possibly emboldened Saddam to further push the boundaries of international law. By giving Saddam an ultimatum and proceeding with physical combat and engaging in a war, war with Iraq was the correct decision when considering the person and government being dealt with.
Middle Eastern interventionism galore: Neither US nor Chinese policies alleviate
A recent analysis of Middle Eastern states’ interventionist policies suggests that misguided big power approaches have fueled a vicious cycle of interference and instability over the last decade.
Those approaches are abetted, if not encouraged by US and Chinese strategies that are similar, if not essentially the same, just labelled differently. The United States has long opted for regime stability in the Middle East rather than political reform, an approach China adopts under the mum of non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
As a result, both the United States and China de facto signal autocrats that they will not be held accountable for their actions. This week’s US response and Chinese silence about the suspension of democracy in Tunisia illustrates the point.
The policies of the two powers diverge, however, on one key approach: The US, unlike China, frequently identifies one or more regimes, most notably Iran, as a threat to regional security. In doing so, US policy is often shaped by the narrow lens of a frequently demonized ‘enemy’ or hostile power.
The problem with that approach is that it encourages policies that are based on a distorted picture of reality. The Obama administration’s negotiation of a 2015 international nuclear agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program proved that amending those policies constitutes a gargantuan task, albeit one that is gaining traction with more critical trends emerging in both the Democratic Party and among Evangelists.
The recent study, ‘No Clean Hands: The Interventions of Middle Eastern Powers, 2010-2020,’ published by the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, suggests by implication that China has at the vey least allowed instability to fester in the Middle East that is fueled as much by destabilizing Iranian interventions as by similar actions of various US allies.
The study was authored by researcher Matthew Petti and Trita Parsi, the Institute’s co-founder and executive vice president and founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council.
To be sure China may not have been able to influence all interventionist decisions, including the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but potentially could have at times tempered the interventionist inklings of regional players with a more assertive approach rather than remaining aloof and focusing exclusively on economic opportunity.
China demonstrated its willingness and ability to ensure that regional players dance to its tune when it made certain that Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries refrained from criticizing Beijing’s brutal attempt to alter the ethnic and religious identity of its Turkic Muslim population in the north-western province of Xinjiang.
Taking Syria as an example, Li Shaoxian, a former vice president at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, articulated China’s approach in 2016 as Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his first visit to the Middle East. “China doesn’t really care who takes the presidency…in the future—as long as that person could stabilize and develop the country, we would agree,” Mr. Li said.
To be fair, the Quincy Institute study focuses on the interventionist policies of Middle Eastern states and recommendations for US policy rather than on China even if the report by implication has consequences for China too.
A key conclusion of the study is that the fallacy of US policy was not only to continue to attempt to batter Iran into submission despite evidence that pressure was not persuading the Islamic republic to buckle under.
It was also a failure to acknowledge that Middle Eastern instability was fueled by interventionist policies of not just one state, Iran, but of six states, five of which are US allies: Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The US allies, with the exception of Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar, are perceived as supporters of the regional status quo.
On the other hand, the United States and its allies have long held that Iran’s use of militant proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen; its intervention in Syria and support of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip; and its armament policies, including its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, destabilize the Middle East and pose the greatest threat to regional security.
They assert that Iran continues to want to export its revolution. It is an argument that is supported by Iran’s own rhetoric and need to maintain a revolutionary façade.
Middle East scholar Danny Postel challenges the argument in a second paper published this month by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies that seems to bolster the Quincy Institute’s analysis.
“The view of Iran as a ‘revolutionary’ state has been dead for quite some time yet somehow stumbles along and blinds us to what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East. A brief look at the role Iran has played over the last decade in three countries — Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — reveals a very different picture: not one of a revolutionary but rather of a counter-revolutionary force,” Mr. Postel argues.
The scholar noted that Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian armed groups in Iraq responded in similar ways to mass anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020 in Lebanese and Iraqi cities that transcended sectarian divisions and identified the Iran-aligned factions with widespread corruption that was dragging their countries down.
They attacked the protesters in an attempt to salvage a failed system that served their purpose and suppress what amounted to popular uprisings.
“Do they really think that we would hand over a state, an economy, one that we have built over 15 years? That they can just casually come and take it? Impossible! This is a state that was built with blood,” said an Iraqi official with links to the pro-Iranian militias. A Hezbollah official speaking about Lebanon probably could not have said it better.
Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal suppression of a popular revolt is no less counter-revolutionary and illustrative of the length to which Iran is willing to go to protect its interests.
“Indeed, for all the talk of Iran’s ‘disruptive’ role in the region, what the cases of Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon reveal is instead an Islamic Republic hell-bent on keeping entrenched political establishments and ruling classes in power while helping them quell popular movements for social justice, democratic rights, and human dignity,” Mr. Postel concludes.
“The idea that Iran is a revolutionary power while Saudi Arabia is a counter-revolutionary power in the region is a stale binary. Both the Islamic Republic and the Saudi Kingdom play counter-revolutionary roles in the Middle East. They are competing counter-revolutionary powers, each pursuing its counter-revolutionary agenda in its respective sphere of influence within the region,” Mr. Postel goes on to say.
Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt appeared to contradict Mr. Postel in a paper published this week that asserted that Hezbollah remained a revolutionary pro-Iranian force in its regional posture beyond Lebanon.
“Hezbollah’s regional adventurism is most pronounced in its expeditionary forces deployed in Syria and elsewhere in the region, but no less important are the group’s advanced training regimen for other Shi’a militias aligned with Iran, its expansive illicit financing activities across the region, and its procurement, intelligence, cyber, and disinformation activities,” Mr. Levitt said.
Mr. Postel’s analysis in various ways bolsters the Quincy Institute report’s observation that tactics employed by Iran are not uniquely Iranian but have been adopted at various times by all interventionist players in the Middle East.
The Quincy Institute study suggests further that a significant number of instances in the last decade in which Middle Eastern states projected military power beyond their borders involved Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar on battlefields that were as much related to competition for regional influence among US allies or the countering of popular movements as they were to rivalry with Iran.
“Iran is highly interventionist, but not an outlier. The other major powers in the region are often as interventionist as the Islamic Republic – and at times even more so. Indeed, the UAE and Turkey have surpassed in recent years,” the report said.
The report’s publication coincided with the indictment of billionaire Thomas J. Barrack, a one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the UAE, widely seen as another case and form of intervention by a Middle Eastern state.
By implication, the study raises the question whether compartmentalizing security issues like the nuclear question and framing them exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than discussing them in relation to diverging security concerns of all regional players, including Iran, will lead to a sustainable regional security architecture.
There is little indication that thinking in Washington is paying heed to the Quincy Institute study or Mr. Postel’s analysis even though their publication came at an inflection point in negotiations with Iran suspended until President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in mid-August.
That was evident in a proposal put forward this month by former US Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross on how to respond to Iran’s refusal to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support of armed proxies as well as Mr. Al-Assad as part of the nuclear negotiation. Mr. Ross suggested that the United States sell to Israel the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound mountain-buster capable of destroying hardened underground nuclear facilities.
Members of Congress last year offered legislation that would authorize the sale as a way to maintain Israel’s military edge as the United States moves to reward the UAE for its establishment of diplomatic reltions with Israel by selling it top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets.
The administration is expected to move ahead with the sale of the jets after putting it on hold for review when Joe Biden took office In January.
The Quincy Institute and Mr. Postel’s calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about the Middle East and/or Iran take on added significance in the light of debates about the sustainability of the Iranian clerical regime.
Contrary to suggestions that the regime is teetering on the brink of collapse as the result of sanctions and domestic discontent, most recently evidenced in this month’s protests sparked by water shortages, widely respected Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour argues that the Iranian regime could have a shelf life of at least another generation.
Mr. Sadjadpour draws a comparison to the Soviet Union. “Post-Soviet Russia… didn’t transition from the Soviet Union to a democratic Russia, but it essentially became a new form of authoritarianism which took Communism and replaced it with grievance driven Russia nationalism—led by someone from the ancient regime and a product of the KGB, Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Sadjadpour argues.
“Likewise, if I had to make a prediction in Iran, I think that the next prominent leader is less likely to be an aging cleric—like an Ayatollah Khamenei or Ibrahim Raisi—and more likely to be someone who is a product of either the Revolutionary Guards or Iran’s intelligence services. Instead of espousing Shiite nationalism, they will substitute that with Iranian nationalism—or Persian nationalism,” he goes on to say.
An Iranian nationalist regime potentially could contribute to regional stability. It would likely remove the threats of Iranian meddling in the domestic affairs of various Arab countries by empowering Shiite Muslim groups as well as support for political Islam. Iranian nationalism would turn aid to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen into a liability rather than an asset.
Mr. Sadjadpour’s prognosis coupled with the Quincy Institute report suggests that the Biden administration has an opportunity to reframe its Middle East policy in the long-term interests of the United States as well as the region and the international community.
The nuclear talks are one potential entry point to what would amount to the equivalent of turning a supertanker around in the Suez Canal – a gradual process at best rather than an overnight change. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan may be another.
Concern in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran about the fallout of the withdrawal suggests that stabilizing the greater Middle East in ways that conflicts can be sustainably managed if not resolved creates grounds for China, Russia and the United States to cooperate on what should be a common interest: securing the free flow of oil and gas as well as trade.
China, Russia, and Iran may be bracing themselves for worst case scenarios as the Taliban advance militarily, but the potential for some form of big power cooperation remains.
China scholars Haiyun Ma and I-wei Jennifer Chang note that in the case of Afghanistan “despite the Taliban’s advancement on the ground and its call for Chinese investment, the current military situation and the political process have not yet manifested a power vacuum created by the US retreat, which makes Chinese entry and gains…largely symbolic in nature.”
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