Middle East in Turmoil; The World Is Not Flat

February 4, 2011 1:03 pm 3 comments

Banksy's Armoured Peace Dove. Photo: eddiedangerous.

Few articles about the uprising in Egypt were more infuriating than Thomas Friedman’s column in this week’s New York Times. Titled B.E., Before Egypt. A.E., After Egypt, Mr. Friedman argues that Israel should not be perturbed by the upheaval in Egypt, and now, of all times, grab the opportunity to make peace with the Palestinian Authority!

You heard that right. Amidst this erupting storm, he asserts that Israel should simply ignore the spreading agitation, and strike a deal with the Palestinians. In his own poetic words:

“This is a perilous time for Israel, and its anxiety is understandable. But I fear Israel could make its situation even more perilous if it succumbs to the argument one hears from a number of senior Israeli officials today that the events in Egypt prove that Israel can’t make a lasting peace with the Palestinians. It’s wrong and dangerous….

“To put it bluntly, if Israelis tell themselves that Egypt’s unrest proves why Israel cannot make peace with the Palestinian Authority, then they will be talking themselves into becoming an apartheid state — they will be talking themselves into permanently absorbing the West Bank and thereby laying the seeds for an Arab majority ruled by a Jewish minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.”

Imagine this scene: Your home, say, in the suburbs of Westchester, is surrounded by sworn enemies who don’t want you there. But you have encircled your home with powerful defenses, to protect you from your hostile neighbors. Your strong walls repel the enemy, and even when they do breach it from time to time, you have enough firepower and ingenuity to defeat them. Indeed, after several enemy incursions you came away with some extra land buffering you from your neighboring enemies.

Why you continue to live among enemies and don’t move away to friendlier pastures is another story. But you have resolve and fortitude to remain just where you are, despite the menaces around you.

One fine day, one of your adversarial neighbors, calculating that a peaceful approach may work better than war, approaches you offering his hand in peace. In return all he wants is the land you conquered from him in defending yourself against his attack.

You agree. Peace is achieved. Or so it seems. What happened to all this neighbor’s previous animosity? Did it just disappear? Did his entire family – and large family – all suddenly covert to being your friends?

Absolutely not. The only thing that changed was that this particular neighbor, defying the resistance of his family and all his other neighbors, felt that for the time being a peace treaty with you served his interests better than going to war. And it didn’t hurt – perhaps this was even the primary motivation – that a wealthy financier in a distant land contributed 1.7 billion dollars to his coffers, basically buying him the power he needed to remain in control, despite his many local detractors.

Some 30 years passed. The peace held. But the ferment did not. Indeed, the powerful leader, fattened by the riches bestowed upon him, creating an artificial sense of normalcy, became corrupt and the hatred of his people to him only grew. Until finally the bubble burst and the dissent erupted into the streets, calling for his head.

Suddenly, in one fell swoop the entire perceived equilibrium was exposed to be nothing but a veneer, coated and cushioned by billions of dollars, which did nothing to change the hostility of your neighbors to you.

Given, you had 30 years of peace from this particular neighbor, and did not have to concentrate your energy and defenses to this border. But overnight you realized that nothing had fundamentally changed. Your enemy remained your sworn enemy. And to boot, you had given up your buffer – miles and miles of land that could serve as a deterrent, which you cannot reclaim.

As volatility spreads around you, you are left dazed. What will happen now that this so-called friendly neighbor turns on you?

Meanwhile, during these three decades, your other neighbors weren’t sleeping. They built up their forces and new voices emerged clawing at your walls, clamoring for a piece of you.

But, never fear. Pundits and writers from lands afar assure you – from the comforts of their suburban living rooms – that these neighbors are sincere in their quest of peace. Never mind that they were and many of them remain you mortal enemies. Never mind that every Friday their imams spew hatred and venom against you and your family. Never mind that many of them refuse to recognize your legitimacy. Never mind that of all times, now we see the profound instability of your neighbors’ governance, clearly signaling how nothing can be relied on or predicted in this region.

Forget all that, tell us our Western peace-loving friends, and just make peace with whoever is willing to give you the honor of taking a piece of your property!

The problem with these writers is that they see the world through the distant lens of wealth and modernity, completely clueless – or if we were benevolent, putting on a good act of making themselves intentionally oblivious – to the sworn enemies swarming around you.

In their naïve and condescending minds, the Western secular model – shaped by the Enlightenment (emphasis on the world light, as opposed to the dark Middle Ages) – will prevail over the primitive religious passions of the Muslim world. Never mind, that there are only 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and it remains the fastest growing religion on the globe, quickly overwhelming Europe.

I submit that it’s not just about naivette. This particular writer is invested in his own position, and as is common among strong-headed and arrogant thinkers, whose minds have also swelled beyond proportion due to their success as best selling authors, instead of seeing reality and acknowledging mistakes, he digs further in. In addition, he so despises the religious right who insist on their Biblical rights to their land, with Messianic aspirations, that he cannot see clearly even when his own family is being mugged.

Moreover, he and most of his Western colleagues are unaware – perhaps due to lack of real exposure to on-the-ground realities – of the powerful religious passions of these neighbors. Their faith sees you as a profane and heretical intruder – like an open gnash wound – amidst their holy lands. As long as your home exists, their homes are compromised.

And no amount of iphones, computer technology, McDonald burgers and Coca Cola will change this fact. For 99% of your neighbors – despite many of them undoubtedly being peace loving – religious faith is far more important than peace. If they were not afraid of losing a war with you or were not subdued by a few wealthy leaders, they would turn on you in a flash – as an infidel desecrating their sacred space.

If anything, your unstable neighbor has proven that you cannot trust any illusion of stability around you. Thus, the need to be even more fearful of “peace treaties” with other neighbors.

Now, he tries to make the point that if you do not make peace with these close neighbors, you will be stuck with becoming an apartheid state — “permanently absorbing the West Bank and thereby laying the seeds for an Arab majority ruled by a Jewish minority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.”

First of all, even if that were true – which it surely isn’t – the alternative is far worse. Your neighbors don’t want you there. They never did and never will. Yes, they will sign a peace treaty with you to get what they can now. But who is to assure that the same thing won’t happen with them that happened to your neighbor to your west?!

Especially considering that there are many other neighbors who are invested in your elimination, and will not rest until they incite and turn all your neighbors against you (even those that are neutral), and silence those that want to live with you in peace.

Second, the apartheid argument (which has become so popular) is simply groundless and based on a patently false premise. Before the early 60’s there was no such entity called “Palestinians.” Indeed, in March 1977 the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, who 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 for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. 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.”

If so, did anyone ever consider the option that Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and other surrounding Arab countries should be compelled to absorb their own brethren – just as Israel absorbed the over 1 million Jews expelled from Arab lands after 1948?! If you want to prevent apartheid – and the mingling of nations at odds with each others – why shouldn’t the Arab countries welcome with open arms their own brothers and sisters?! Why is it incumbent on Israel to absorb them?

As wise people, why doesn’t anyone consider – starting with the self-proclaimed expert on the issues, Mr. Friedman – that perhaps this whole Palestinian state thing is a ploy to simply gain a stronger foothold in and around Israel. And one day, this will help serve as a springboard for the conquest of Israel.

And this is not some theory. Most if not all Israel’s neighbors are at best openly tolerant of Israel (behind the scenes is another story) and at worst, call for its destruction and will do everything to mobilize all the neighbors toward that cause. Any semblance of order and restraint is either due to the large sums coming from the US sugarcoating the deep unrest in lands like Egypt, or from a small number of wealthy leaders in Saudi Arabia controlling their citizens.

The underlying combustion cannot be contained forever, no matter how much money and oil swathe the region in layers of denial and delusion. We now are witnessing this festering agitation surfacing, and it will surely ripple through the Middle East with unpredictable results.

This is the sad history – and true nature – of this region. And no matter how many columns Mr. Friedman writes and how many books he sells, this tragic reality will not change.

Mr. Friedman is invested in teaching us that the world is flat, and increasingly shrinking as our global economies become so enmeshed, and our social networks connecting us all, effectively turning everything international local.

But wake up and smell the coffee, my friend: The world – especially when it comes to religious passions – is quite round.

So, what then is the solution to the fermenting Middle East? What is Israel – that sliver of land surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile neighbors – to do amidst all the storms thundering around it?

Stay tuned for part two of this article.

3 Comments

  • charlie johnson

    The people who write in newspapers and magazines are obligated to the mission of making money from the enterprise. They are not there to heal the wounds of the world.Do you suppose that Friedman guy is doing his job out of charity? He wants to put money in his pockets . He writes things that get those results.The folks that pay him own his loyalty.He would not let truth get between him and his paycheck.

  • BERNARDO APSAN

    Why do Europe and USA care so much? They don’t. They are afraid of those people. They are the only people who attacked Europe and the USA for not aligning with every folly or thought coming from them. They even poisoned Israeli grapefruits killing europeans just to damage Israel’s economy. This is what is behind the West’s pressure against Israel. The West isn’t even worried about the oil because the Arabs need to sell it somewhere.

  • whats the difference between offering land to abbas and offering land to hitler

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.