The arguments used by many in the West to avoid thinking and talking seriously
about the Middle East generally feature a refusal to discuss the substance of
issues and usually involve a barrage of insults, characterizations, and
nonlogical or nonfactual claims.
1. The right-wing argument. This says:
You’re basically a right-wing person who opposes a two-state solution and wants
to do mean things to Arabs or Muslims. Therefore, we can ignore anything you
I won’t take the space to present my Democratic Party (US) and Labor
Party (Israel) credentials. Let’s just point out that there are many
unhappy with Barack Obama’s foreign policy (even if only in private) and
the Labor Party is part of the current Israeli government.
who aren’t right-wing right-wing is merely a tactic by radicals to
liberals to ignore critics and to mistake a relatively extremist
approach as a
moderate left-of-center one.
There is a parallel attempt to label anyone
who favors Israel as a right-winger unfit for civilized discourse and
enemy of enlightened people. Yet it should be a liberal cause to support
country that is not only democratic and with an open, liberal society,
is also a US ally, a bulwark against aggressive and repressive forces
country which has made considerable sacrifices and taken great risks for
It should be a liberal cause to oppose the establishment of
radical Islamist regimes that destroy individual rights, create ruthless
dictatorships and oppress women and Christians. Moreover, it is very
much in the
national interest of the US and of the West – including any liberal
interpretation of that interest – to oppose a region dominated by Iran
allies, the overthrow of relatively moderate Arab regimes, the
Israel and a situation of increased violence and crisis that would
2. The “They don’t love Obama” argument.
For many people
Obama has become an icon above criticism. Thus, if one criticizes Obama
administration, one is an evil person (hints of racism and xenophobia
inserted) and should be ignored.
It is no mystery that the Obama
administration is failing badly in foreign policy. This is common in
discussions among officials in many countries, and is also shown in both
East and American public opinion polls.
Obama must face the same
criterion and analysis, and be judged by the same standards, as his
Many lives and the freedom of whole countries depend on
3. The abandonment of logic: What we see lately is a much higher
level of non-rational argument. Some attribute it to people being told to
feelings, rather than logic, the higher priority.
Obama said Israelis
were distrustful of him because of his middle name, that is a Muslim
to many people there is also an implication of racism.
How to disprove
this? Simple. The original Israeli reaction to Obama, as shown by polls,
He still had the same name back then, before his policies
changed people’s minds.
4. Israelis are stupid. When people say they are
going to save Israel for its own good, it makes me mad. Aside from the
generally displayed by those who are so arrogant, a key problem is that
the West have forgotten the events of 1993-2000, though Israelis
We tried a process in which money was poured into the
Palestinian Authority, many concessions (mostly unilateral) were made by
territory was handed over and the result was massive violence by the
and a refusal to make peace.
As a result of experience – not ideology –
the debate in Israel has changed.
There is no serious discussion about
annexing large amounts of territory or holding onto the West Bank
Nobody is proposing taking back the Gaza Strip. Israelis
overwhelmingly want a two-state solution that provides long-term peace
They are right in being suspicious of steps that endanger their
lives and correct in reading the Palestinian side skeptically, while
understanding the Islamists’ intentions.
We are not in the 1990s now,
much less the 1970s. Today, Israel’s options are narrower: There is a
for talks and shorter-term cooperation (the Palestinian Authority) but
partner for full peace.
Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are not amenable
Israeli leaders are very much aware that this country has
parallel interests with most Arab governments and try to figure out how
use of that fact. Yet the actual cooperation possible is
Revolutionary Islamism is advancing and the US, given its
current policy, isn’t exactly a bulwark battling against it. People here
are in 2010; those outside may not fully understand what this means.
So people who don’t follow the issues, understand the debate or know the
want to play with our lives.
And not only our lives but the lives of many
others who, even if ostensible enemies, are in the same boat.
for example, the need to get a proper system for containing Iran when
did not say if) it gets nuclear weapons. It is clear that the White
not understand what is going to be required.
Isn’t it rather important
for them to rethink their strategy? The same applies to the acceptance
repressive revolutionary Islamist dictatorship in the Gaza Strip, a
Iran and an advocate of genocide on the Mediterranean Sea.
The lives of
millions of people and the world’s future hang in the balance.
deserves a rather clearheaded discussion on the issues.
The writer is
director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and
Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He
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