The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so the saying goes, and that certainly seems to be the case in the Middle East, where once again (or is it still?) it, seems to be well on its way to hell due to the actions of people who think that they are acting for the greater good of something or other.
All around us countries, which had managed to survive – albeit under dictatorships -- for several decades since being abandoned by their colonial masters, are breaking up in a series of bloodbaths that are enough to make anyone’s blood run cold, helped along by intervention from well-intentioned individuals at the head of the USA. Although we all acknowledge that dictatorships are a Bad Thing, it would seem that without them countries like Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and possibly others disintegrate in the most violent manner imaginable.
Here in Israel, apart from the occasional Palestinian violence, as evinced by the recent kidnapping of three teenagers and outbreaks of stone-throwing, we can delude ourselves that we’re living in a bubble of peace and quiet as all around us huge masses of refugees stream across borders in search of a place where their lives are not in peril. The refugee camps that have been set up in the countries surrounding us provide less than minimal conditions for living, and the sight of these unfortunates is enough to soften even the stoniest heart.
Behind these violent eruptions lie tribal and sectarian differences within the local populations. Which ordinary man-or-woman-in-the-street can fathom the depths of hatred that cause Muslims belonging to different streams of that faith to mercilessly slaughter one another? Shias? Sunnis? What’s the difference? Who cares? And of course their mutual hatred is only a partial palliative for the hatred those extremists bear for anyone who is not a Muslim, i.e., Jews and Christians. In what seems to be a classic case of fear of and hatred for ‘the other,’ these radicals seek to impose their beliefs and way of life on everyone, and if that doesn’t work, to bump those people off. Irrespective of the more odious aspects of their religion (violence towards all and sundry, repression of women, discrimination against all and sundry), their attitude constitutes the antithesis of progress and enlightenment, whatever they may contend to the contrary.
The prospect is frightening. Once the radical Muslims have sated their thirst for blood on one another they are going to turn to the rest of us. Israel’s defence forces will have a tough job keeping them at bay along borders that are too long and too close for comfort. The Muslim countries that are our neighbours are not going to form a bulwark against the radicals unless some major international effort is made to stop them.
But that seems unlikely. America is disinclined to intervene, and this is understandable in view of their experiences of such action in recent memory. Who’s left? China? Russia? Why should they bother? They are probably rubbing their hands in glee as they watch the Middle East erupt in mutually assured destruction.
Perhaps we can console ourselves by looking back over time. Europe has undergone innumerable wars and is now more or less at peace. And we Jews emerged from the Holocaust, the darkest period in our history (and there have been many very dark periods), and summoned up the strength to establish our own country, ward off the forces who sought to destroy us, and reach unimagined heights of prosperity and success.
If mankind has managed to surmount all those hurdles in the past, we must take heart and not let ourselves be discouraged now. The future has looked bleaker in the past and yet we have endured. So I suppose there’s nothing for it but to remain optimistic and hope that one of these days reason will prevail.