Friday, September 18, 2009

Bin Laden says the dispute between the West and the Islamic world is primarily over Israel

Several commentators have noticed the emphasis Osama Bin Laden placed on the conflict over Zionism in his most recent recording, and claimed it represents a change in strategy on his part. That claim is simply not true. I'll post some links further down, that were compiled by commenters at Matt Yglesias' blog earlier.

The idea that Israel is not central to the Western dispute with the Muslim world is very widespread, especially in the United States. It is an idea that is clearly and easily shown to be nonsense, so it is worth taking a look at how and why that idea is so widely held.

The first reason it is possible is that there is a strong information imbalance in the United States. Most people who care enough about the Middle East to become informed about it in the United States are Jewish and feel an ethnic connection with the project of Zionism and with Israel. Even non-Jews who become knowledgeable, in the course of careers or studies involving the Middle East, are disproportionately influenced by people who feel that ethnic connection.

Because of the information imbalance, it is possible for consensus views to form that are completely outside of the realm of plausibility.

The reason an outlandish consensus has formed that Bin Laden's and other Muslim antipathy towards the West are not fueled by Israel is that Israel depends on Western, and especially US support for survival. Israel could not survive as a Jewish state for 10 years without US support, not only directly, but also in propping up relatively pro-Zionist dictatorships especially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and also in organizing opposition to relatively anti-Zionist governments in the region, including Iran.

But while Israel depends on US support, US support for Israel depends strongly on two factors. The first factor is that most Americans do not understand how expensive it is for the US to prevent a one-state solution with a Muslim majority from prevailing over what is now Israel. The second factor is that most Americans do not understand that a peaceful solution like the one that came about in South Africa is acceptable to most Muslims even as it is unacceptable to most Jews.

So understating the cost the US must pay to ensure that a Jewish majority state is viable while at the same time exaggerating the risk of an outcome worse than that in South Africa is critical for the survival of Israel. People with emotional attachments to Israel - often subconsciously, maybe sometimes cynically - routinely and reflexively distort the US narrative regarding Israel in these two directions.

We can expect to constantly hear understatements of the price the US pays and must pay to ensure Israel can remain a Jewish-majority state. We can also expect to constantly expect exaggerations of the desire of Muslims to kill every Jewish person in the region, rather than live in a Muslim majority state as Black South Africans live in a Black majority state.

One example is that the goals the US was trying to accomplish by invading Iraq could have been accomplished vastly more effectively and vastly less expensively if the US wasn't publicly committed to defending Israel's Jewishness.

Anyway, here are some links about Bin Laden and Israel:

“The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. The American Congress endorses all government measures and this proves that the entire America is responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims. The entire America, because they elect the Congress.”

(Bin Laden’s Nov 2001 interview with DAWN)

“REPORTER: Mr. Bin Ladin, you’ve declared a jihad against the United States. Can you tell us why? And is the jihad directed against the US government or the United States’ troops in Arabia? What about US civilians in Arabia or the people of the United States?

BIN LADIN: We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation of the Prophet’s Night Travel Land (Palestine). And we believe the US is directly responsible for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. The mention of the US reminds us before everything else of those innocent children who were dismembered, their heads and arms cut off in the recent explosion that took place in Qana (in Lebanon). This US government abandoned even humanitarian feelings by these hideous crimes. It transgressed all bounds and behaved in a way not witnessed before by any power or any imperialist power in the world. ”

(1997 interview Bin Laden gave to CNN’s Peter Arnett)

1 comment:

lidia said...

sorry for off-topic, but I just wanted to thank you for your comment to prof. Cole writings about Ahmadinejad. I wrote more or less the same, but my post was deleted :)

Also thanks for link to the poll in Iran - it was VERY interesting