Egyptians hit Israeli flag 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A British writer named David Hearst has suggested in the Guardian that Israel
will disappear because Arabs and Muslims continue to “resist” its existence.
This is a fascinating example of the many things wrong with political analysis,
media, intellectual debate, and the understanding of the Middle East today.
Here’s a list:
1.The confusion between wishful thinking and analysis. Every day
I am forced by reality to say things I don’t want to say. But people who no
longer understand scholarly, scientific and intellectual values assume I only
say it because of some political agenda. And that belief derives from the
cynical, neo-Marxist, post-modernist concept that everyone merely represents a
specific political interest. That concept kills democratic discussion.
example: I would love Egypt to be a stable democratic state. That isn’t,
however, what I see based on evidence. Yet if I say so, the response is likely
to be insults or name calling. For instance, I only say it because Israel or
America wants to discredit the Egyptian revolution. Yet understanding and policy
can only be made on the basis of honest assessment. Otherwise, they will fail or
make things worse.
Of course, the British writer is echoing what he hears
in Arab discussions. They want Israel to collapse, hence they predict it. But
basing their lives and policy, spending their blood and money, on this effort
will lead Arabs to disaster – as it has already done for 60 years – and postpone
progress for themselves.
2. The lack of real historical perspective. This
article in question could have been written in 1948 or in any year since. If
people continually predict something and it doesn’t happen, might that not
indicate a need to change their view? Indeed, evidence shows that Israel has
become more successful while Arab states – as recent months unfortunately prove
– have become mired in internal conflict and retrograde Islamism.
of many ironies about “multiculturalism” is its egocentrism. “Other” peoples are
reduced to political symbols, something like an old Communist poster of heroic
workers and equally heroic peasants.
Their views are only taken into
account if they are led by the “proper” leaders. A Muslim leader who denounces
the West and makes demands on it for accommodation is “legitimate,” but an
immigrant who wants to integrate fully into Western civilization, or a leader
who wishes to be an ally of the United States – they are sell-outs not worthy of
respect. Moderate Muslims or democratic oppositions in Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey
are put into that category. That’s why there are no campus or other
demonstrations on their behalf.
In addition, true inquiry into other
countries and groups is discouraged because it might lead to “unacceptable”
conclusions. It’s amazing how little we know – especially from academic research
or journalistic investigation –about Muslim communities in the West. There is
hardly any real work on, say, Palestinian politics, political groups in Egypt,
the Syrian opposition or the nature of Turkey’s ruling party.
and behavior so intent on injuring one’s enemy that they end up injuring
Since ideology and “political correctness” trump factual
correctness and enemies are demonized, the goal is to hurt opponents even if
that means doing disastrous things. There is no better example than the
Arab-Israeli conflict, in which an attempt to destroy Israel has come close to
destroying the Arabic-speaking world. And just when we thought that it might
pull itself out of the swamp in the 1990s they jumped back in.
One of the
reasons that Israel is so criticized, attacked and misunderstand is that
Westerners who dwell in the lands of pragmatism simply cannot believe that
anyone else would act so differently. Consider the gap between a yuppie and a
5. There is an ideology collapsing today in the Middle
East, but it isn’t Zionism. It’s pan-Arab nationalism, which will be replaced
either by Islamism, nation-state nationalism (the “normal” kind), or a moderate
and pro-democratic philosophy. If someone doesn’t realize that this is the great
battle going on now, they can probably understand nothing about the
What the kind of article I’m discussing in the Guardian
does is to
incite decades more of wasteful, deadly and useless struggle. What, resistance
will destroy Israel? Then why should Palestinians negotiate a compromise deal
for a state or Arabs make peace? Just hold out, fight on, and they’ll win! And
that indeed is the philosophy of a long list of people, groups and
The outcome is the mass production of socially approved
Middle Eastern equivalents of Anders Breiviks who, once dead or imprisoned,
become heroes whose faces look down from posters; are taught as role models in
schools; and have youth camps, sporting events and public squares named after
them. US taxpayer funds sent to the Palestinian Authority are then used to pay
them salaries and to support their families.
That’s a good way to
understand the contemporary Arabic-speaking world: a place where the Breviks are
the heroes and the moderates are the villains.Professor Rubin is
Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
http://www.gloria-center.org. He is a featured columnist at PJM
http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/, and editor,
Middle East Review of
International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.