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November 22, 2015 7:28 am

In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

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Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth.

“Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but in its attempted over-unification.” Overall, the blunders of the great powers were in trying to impose their own wishful thinking instead of obtaining a real understanding of the Middle East.

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Unpopular truths abound. Karsh shows that descriptions of the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, the secret bargain between London and Paris to divide the Middle East into spheres of influence, “as the epitome of Western perfidy couldn’t be further from the truth.” In fact, rather than being aimed at suppression of the Arabs, the agreement “constituted the first-ever great-power recognition of an Arab right to self-determination.”

Karsh underscores the challenges the Zionist enterprise encountered with Britain, specifically the barefaced antisemitism of the ruling elites, charged with executing the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (and the Balfour Declaration):

“In the case of the Jewish nationalism, this outlook was aggravated by the pervasive antisemitism within British officialdom (the last high commissioner for Palestine, Gen. Sir Alan Cunningham, for example, described Zionism as a movement where ‘the forces of nationalism are accompanied by the psychology of the Jew, which it is important to recognize as something quite abnormal and unresponsive to rational treatment’) and by the frustration with their inability to patronize the Jews in the way they condescended to the Arabs…. Off the record, most of the officials here will tell you that the Jews are above themselves and want taking down a peg.”

Moreover, the British reputation for untrustworthiness was well-deserved. A telling expression of this came from Cunningham himself, who “put the matter in far blunter terms: ‘Zionism has exhausted its usefulness to Great Britain and has become more of a liability than an asset.'” In contrast, US presidents were very much in support of the Balfour Declaration.

Harry Truman, for example, saw himself as Cyrus the Great, and Karsh highlights that “all American presidents without any exception endorsed the Balfour Declaration. So did Congress in a joint resolution on 30 July 1922, amplifying this move during World War II with several resolutions and declarations supporting unrestricted Jewish immigration and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.”

But in the Obama administration we have witnessed an unprecedented level of cluelessness and disregard for reality, above all the conflicts within Islam. In the process, Karsh writes, “the Obama administration went out of its way to deny, ignore, euphemize and whitewash anything smacking of Islamic violence, radicalism or expansionism.” This is the driving force behind Obama’s attempt to facilitate the rise of ‘moderate Islamists’ and to see the Muslim Brotherhood as an outlet of moderation.

This inability to recognize that groups like the Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah use democratic catchphrases to promote their Islamist agendas somehow has eluded US decision-makers.

The author does not present a rosy picture of the region, but his analysis is grounded in historical facts and represents a deeper understanding of the current crises. Above all, Western policy- makers should take careful note that the region is becoming more volatile and radicalized, not because of the West but by its own hand.

Karsh concludes with the difficult message that “violence was not imported to the Middle East as a by-product of foreign imperialism but has rather been an integral part of the region’s millenarian political culture.”

The book is a must-read for those seeking a lens on the Middle East that is rarely expressed or tolerated in most academic and policy circles.

The writer is executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and a research fellow at the Middle East Forum.

This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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  • Sherlock Holmes

    I would note that regarding the Jewish national home in Palestine, the USA did NOT even join the League of Nations and therefore had no direct part in the Mandate. When pressure began to build in the lead to WW2, the USA closed its gates to Jewish refugees, not even filling its own quotas. In 1948 President Truman recognised the State of Israel IN SPITE of his Cabinet and his State Department’s advice. Britain’s ‘Black Paper’ under PM Neville Chamberlain was 100% wrong,as he was with Czechoslovakia,but Britain did build a structured society preparing Israel for independence, to wit a neutral head of state who appoints a prime minister based on the party best able to form a govt based on parliamentary elections, plus an official state religion based on the C of E and an independent judiciary. Don’t underestimate the role of Brits like PM Winston Churchill.

  • If you want to understand why Muslims hate Israel and America, then I emphatically recommend this book:

    They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It by Brigitte Gabriel, year 2008, year 2010, St. Martin’s Press, 288 pages ISBN 0312571283, ISBN 9780312571283.

    Every page of this book is worth reading – twice — and this book contains dozens of paragraphs that are worthy of being quoted verbatim.
    If you cannot get your hands on this book, the at least do yourself the favor of checking out Brigitte Gabriel’s web sites:

    http://www.actforamerica.org
    http://www.actforamericaeducation.com

    Last but not least, Brigitte Gabriel’s books and web sites reveal critical facts about Islam and Muslims and Israel that the Leftist-dominated news media DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW, because the Leftists are the loyal allies of the Muslims and the Arabs.

    PS: http://www.camera.org * http://www.HonestReporting.com * http://www.memri.org * http://www.ActForAmerica.org * http://www.IsraelLawCenter.org

  • patrick

    in this wake of these ressurgence world upheavals,as a matter of fact nothing has really changed,one can liken it with pharses of genetic replication,where everything now is in active motion,so volatile people are oblivious of their surrounding..reduced to mundane of materialistic realism and persuit, religion and phillosophy has been thrown aside,there,s an ulteriour intentional motive…for things to remain the way they are and worse still escalate to unimaginable prorpotions that it,ll leave the weakened majority vernarable to be swayed by the few elites to fit in their diabolical schemes for the control of the world …unless humankind awakens into self reflection thats the only malandy to the problems that prague the world today…seemingly artificial stagemanaged to the “enlightened”but escapes the hidsight of the normal innocent human being who incessantly remains buffled of what the heck wrong with the world if he is lucky to remain alive to ponder over it.

    • shooime

      surely you didn’t need to post this indecipherable message twice?

  • patrick

    in this wake of these ressurgence world upheavals,as a matter of fact nothing has really changed,one can liken it with pharses of genetic replication,where everything now is in active motion,so volatile people are oblivious of their sorrounding..reduced to mundane of materialistic realism and persuit, religion and phillosophy has been thrown aside,there,s an ulteriour intentional motive…for things to remain the way they are and worse still escalate to unimaginable prorpotions that it,ll leave the weakened majority vernarable to be swayed by the few elites to fit in their diabolical schemes for the control of the world …unless humankind awakens into self reflection thats the only malandy to the problems that prague the world today…seemingly artificial stagemanaged to the “enlightened”but escapes the hidsight of the normal innocent human being who incessantly remains buffled of what the heck wrong with the world if he is lucky to remain alive to ponder over it.

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