Thursday, December 24, 2009

Discussing the Middle East without mentioning Israel

The main conflict in the Middle East is really between parties that accept Israel and parties that do not. Describing it as Sunni vs. Shiite or pro-American vs. anti-American misses an important point. Here are the abnormally perceptive for US analysts, Flynt and Hillary Leverett, going out of their way to evade the fact that Israel's legitimacy is the central conflict of the Middle East. Possibly they've been conditioned to worry about being called anti-Semitic when making that obvious observation. An unreasonable fear of being considered anti-Semitic has the capacity to cloud US analysis this way and in far more damaging ways.
On one side of this divide are those states willing to work in various forms of strategic partnership with the United States, with an implied acceptance of American hegemony over the region. This camp includes Israel, those Arab states that have made peace with Israel (Egypt and Jordan), and other so-called moderate Arab states (e.g., Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council).

On the other side of this divide are those Middle Eastern states and non-state actors that are unwilling to legitimize American (and, some in this camp would say, Israeli) hegemony over the region. The Islamic Republic of Iran has emerged in recent years as the de facto leader of this camp, which also includes Syria and prominent non-state actors such as HAMAS and Hizballah. Notwithstanding its close security ties to the United States, Qatar has also aligned itself with the “resistance” camp on some issues in recent years. And, notwithstanding Turkey’s longstanding membership in NATO and ongoing European “vocation”, the rise of the Justice Development Party and declining military involvement in Turkish politics have prompted an intensification of Ankara’s diplomatic engagement in the Middle East, in ways that give additional strategic options to various actors in the “resistance” camp.
About Israeli hegemony, this is not a controversial idea. Israel has written guarantees that the US will work to ensure that Israel has a qualitative military advantage over every other country in its region. Describing the first group as pro-American instead of pro-Israeli misses an important part of the dynamic.

The United States depends on dictatorships in the Middle East for exactly one reason: Israel. If Saudi Arabia was as democratic as Colombia or Egypt was as democratic as South Korea, they would not tolerate Israel and would pursue policies designed to force Israel to reaccept the refugees and end its Jewish majority. In other words, unlike other democratic US allies in other regions, there is a structural reason that democratic countries in the Middle East could not go along with a central US policy priority, in other words they could not be US allies if they were democracies. That structural reason and that US policy priority are Israel's existence as a Jewish-majority state.

The people of Jordan and Lebanon are just as opposed to the maintenance of a Jewish state imposed by force as the people of Kenya and Mali were to the maintenance of a White majority state in Africa imposed by force. No reasonably democratic government in any of those countries would fail to oppose the popularly illegitimate country in their region as effectively as possible.

US pressure played a role in democratizing South Korea which a generation ago was a military dictatorship. As long as the conflict over Zionism remains, pro-Israel dictators do not have to worry about that happening to their backwards rulerships. US support for an entire string of oppressive dictatorships resolves to US support for Israel. Other than Israel, there is no reason every other country in the region would not openly host US troops and support US projects, even as democracies.

We're left with a strange and dysfunctional equilibrium in which dictators in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt - two vestiges of the colonial era, the other reimposed after - depend on there being a conflict over Zionism for the US support they need to survive while the US, in dramatic contradiction to its claimed ideals, accepts and even praises these dictatorships. Obama's bizarrely hypocritical claims to support freedom in Iran only highlight his support for worse dictatorships that favor Israel.

This dysfunction is what I had hoped Barack Obama would at least acknowledge. But of all the things Barack Obama is, (for example he is a skilled, patient and practical US domestic politician) a man of honesty or courage is not one of them. For me, that is the biggest disappointment of the Obama administration.


Anonymous said...

Keen observation, Arnold.

Yes, to use obvious Israeli terms, like "Israel" or "Zionist" is to invite the title anti-Semitic.

Case in point, look at what the well intentioned Jimmy Carter had to perform just this week. The poor man basically had to get on his knees and beg forgiveness for using the words "Israel" and "apartheid".

If a former president of the United States can't use honest language in describing the ME situation, what person of any real, mainstream influence can?

It's a sad commentary.


N. Friedman said...


It is certainly the case that any country that is isolated entirely is likely to have a short, unhappy lifespan. However, your description of Israel's seeming isolation is false. It has expanding, not contracting, relations, recently with Europe which wants, more than ever, products that Israel has to sell (i.e. innovations in biotechnology and in IT), and Israel's relationship with the US is mutual, not one way. Which is to say, the US needs Israel to a considerable degree for the services it provides - and is uniquely positioned to provide - for the US. Those services include its paralleled spy service but also its unparalleled level of technical innovation.

The fact is that the Israeli Jews are, per capita, currently the world's greatest source of innovation. At present, that is true by a long shot, with this being an unmatched period, except for the revolution in physics of the early 20th century, of innovation from Jews. And, in over all innovations, Israel, notwithstanding its small population, is second in the world in innovation, outpaced only by the US, with Jews being the leading innovators in the US as well - so I doubt that the US would shoot itself in the foot by alienating its own most productive innovators.

You would have the US trade the substantial advantages that its relationship with Israel provides, all for what? The Arabs will sell the US oil no matter what. After all, if the Arabs do not sell to the US and if they do not cooperate with the US, their economies would collapse entirely. So, they have rather less leverage than meets the eye. Certainly, no one is expecting any scientific or technical innovation from today's Arab world.

Israel's advantages are something that interests the US a whole lot more than the benighted Arab regions which, whether or not Israel existed, would be dysfunctional. To deny that is to ignore that, whether an Arab country is friendly to the US or not, the populations of those countries are largely uneducated, include very large illiterate populations, are profoundly religious in a pre-modern way, things that prevent any serious modernization. And, these facts are true with or without Israel.

Moreover, was it not the "neo-cons" who sought to spread democracy in the Middle East? And, was that project not a failure, at least thus far? And, the assertion that the US keeps places like Saudi Arabia from more democratic forms is belied by the fact that Saudi Arabians have pined not, primarily, for more democracy but, rather, for more tradition. Remember the capture of the Mosque in Mecca by the self-proclaimed mahdi? Remember that such event caused the Saudi Kingdom to turn more directly towards religious orthodoxy, breaking its slight liberalizing trend (to the extent one can speak of liberalism and the Saudi rulers in one breadth). That occurred because that is what Saudis, not Americans, wanted.

It is interesting that you believe in the Israeli centric version of history. That theory is, to me, one held by people who know little about the Middle East and, due to ignorance, believe in conspiracies that, as you have, Israel is central to understanding that region.

In any event, none of this matters. The Israelis are not going away. The US is not going to drop Israel. Europe is not going to drop Israel. Asian countries are trying to improve relations with Israel (e.g. India and China), not the other way around. Israel's influence in the world is, in fact, increasing and will continue to increase because the Israelis have important resources that, in the modern world, count a whole lot more than oil and dysfunctional, backwards populations, namely, extraordinary human innovation. So long as that is the case, Israel will survive.

Arnold Evans said...

Friedman, I believe you read my post, but most of what you wrote does not respond to it at all. Most of the statements you make, even if they are true, have no bearing on the statements I made.

The accusation that I believe in conspiracies can't just go unanswered. What are you talking about. Where in my post did you find a conspiracy or anything relating to any kind of conspiracy?

N. Friedman said...


A hint: read your first sentence in your post ("The main conflict in the Middle East is really between parties that accept Israel and parties that do not.")

lidia said...

Arnold, NF is a typical Zionist, do not mind him :)

By the way, his typical Zionist mantra sounds a bit desperate for me :)

lidia said...

By the way, Arnold, you are right about USA/Israel=USA/Rhodesia

But what about USA support for Latin America dictators against LA democratic liders (i.e. coup in Honduras versus Chaves)?

Anonymous said...

"If Saudi Arabia was as democratic as Colombia"

I recently heard a talk by Chomsky and according to him Colombia is one of the last client states of the US in that region. I am no expert on this issue, but given what Chomsky said, it makes your example somewhat contradictory.

Anonymous said...

@ N. Friedman

You really must believe that the rest of the world is occupied by a bunch of idiots, don't you?

Israeli "superiority" based on the "Jewish traits" while the neighboring people lack such noble abilities due to cultural, social and, basically, biological reasons. Gee I wonder where those ideas come from. And where they will lead to.

"Israel innovations in biotechnology and in IT"
I could buy innovations in disinformation technology, but biotechnology? What would that be? Harvesting body parts from Palestinians without creating a moral outrage?

"Those services include its paralleled spy service but also its unparalleled level of technical innovation."
You mean like the intel on those "Weapons of Mass Destructions"? Boy, the US could sure use more of those services.

lidia said...

Israel spies regulary murder or kidnap "wrong" Arabs, but, after all, all Arabs are the same for Zionists, so I suppose NF could brag about Israel spies

N. Friedman said...


Is there a special reason to employ an ad hominem argument. I trust that you realize that such arguments are invalid.


Your argument about biotechnology is false. In fact, Israel's specialty involves the intersection of biotechnology and computer technology. Such has been well documented.

And, I was not arguing that Jews are superior as human beings. I was arguing that Jews are making advances - in fact, more rapidly than any other people on earth - while Arabs are moving backwards. That is a fact. I have no explanation for why that includes superiority in genetics or any other physical or mental endowment and your contention amounts to an assertion of your bigotry (e.g. like alleging the killing people for their body parts - have you no shame?).

lidia said...

NF thinks it is OK to spout Zionist prop and then call it "employ an ad hominem argument" when he is cauhgt :)

Zionist is a Zionist is a Zionist - i.e. a liar and a fake.Enough said. One needs not to explain why it is not worth to argue with a white supermacist, the same is true about a Jewish one.

By the way, in Israel less than 50% of pupils got their high school diploma

N. Friedman said...


And your point about writing "Zionist is a Zionist is a Zionist - i.e. a liar and a fake" is?

Your argument is rather similar to arguments made by racists. I am not saying that is what you have asserted is racist but it sure sounds like something a racist would assert.

Again, my argument is that Israelis are accomplishing more, per capita, in creative endeavors than any other national group on Earth. That is a fact, so far as I know. My argument is not that Israelis are superior to other human being as human beings; rather, my argument is that Israelis are out performing other ethnic groups. And, that is due to things that Jews are doing (e.g. studying hard, learning to read, etc., etc.), not to the genetic characteristics of Jews.

If you want to label my argument an argument by a Zionist, be my guest. It still does not make my argument wrong. And calling Zionists "liars" also does not make my argument wrong. It, however, does speak to the caliber of your ability to debate, which appears to be nill.

lidia said...

Dear, me, I am "similar to racists" for calling a racist a racist.

OK, specially for dumb racists (dumb because they think everybody elese is dumb):

1) One could NOT change one's race (and the conception of a race is bogus anyone)

2) But one COULD (and should) do not be a racist (Zionist).

For ex, I was born a Jew, from every point of view, including Halaha, but I CHOOSE not to be a racist (i.e. Zionist)

NF CHOOSE to be a Zionist, so he could (and should) be ridiculed and mocked for his racist CHOISE!

Arab could not stop to be an Arab, and anyway, it is not something bad to stop it, but NF hate Arabs, so he is a racist and by his free CHOISE.

Yes, and 2+2=4, just in case :)

I said...

Do I really need to point this out…?

"my argument is that Israelis are accomplishing more, per capita, in creative endeavors than any other national group on Earth. That is a fact, so far as I know."

How can you measure something like that? Compare what you are saying with arguments made about the difference in intelligence between groups of people.

"My argument is not that Israelis are superior to other human being as human beings; rather, my argument is that Israelis are out performing other ethnic groups."

Once again, how can Israelis outperform other human beings? How is this measurable? Is it the recognition Israel gets from people like you? Is it perhaps the amount of scientific papers Israel produces every year?

The point which I believe that you are completely missing is this: what makes an Israeli accomplishment in one field more exceptional and innovative than someone else’s achievements in the same or a different field? What do you mean with "out performing"? Like I mentioned earlier compare the arguments made about intelligence between different groups of people.

"Israelis are out performing other ethnic groups."

You blatantly say that right out. How do you differentiate "other ethnic groups" if not by biological traits? You do not speak of culture, but ethnicity.

To summarize: The way you "measure" progress is not by the merit of the achievements but because the fact that they were done by Israelis.

There is more to this disussion, but as far as I can see, a continuation is not in favor for your, frankly speaking, racist worldview.

I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong to be proud of the group of people you feel you belong to, but you need to embrace both the good and bad side of that group. You just don’t seem to get it do you.

I honestly do not believe that anyone has anything against all those achievement you claim Israel has "out performed" other humans on. That is not a bad thing per se. Technological advancements are usually for the good of all humans.

The problem is that you use that as an argument to justify the bad sides of Israel, and with that setup you will automatically connect any criticism against Israel as a criticism against the positive things you feel Israel has done.


N. Friedman said...

To I,

My comment was based on objective measures of creativity, including obtaining patents (and backing for the inventions), literary production, etc.

To lidia,

Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish people. To callit racist is to believe that Jews, unlike Greeks and Palestinian Arabs, have no right to seek liberation. All liberation movements have come at the expense of other people. Many have had far worse fights than have been associated with Zionism. In the case of the Greek liberation movement, hundreds of thousands of people ultimately died in the fighting, which continued for longer than the fight between Zionists and Arabs.

If you want to argue that Israel has not been good for Arabs, that is a different point. It may well be true. But to refer to a liberation movement as racist per se while supporting a liberation movement by Palestinian Arabs is rather odd. I call that selective outrage.

lidia said...

Zionism is a colonial movement of Jewish racists and their goy allies. Zionism is not different from C. Rhodes movement, and it will have the same end, and much earlier than NF thinks.

Palestinians, on the other hand, pay a role of Black Natives here, just as Arnold rightly noted several times.

I would not give a damn if NF thinks it is "odd" to support anti-colonial struggle while unmasking colonizers :)

lidia said...

"literary production"

A celebrated classic writer of Israel - Shy Agnon was a gross racist (even though he was also very talanted ). His novel "Shira" is full of anti-Palestinian bigotry (and is anti-Christian as well)- I have read it in original.

Modern day famous Jewish Israeli wtiters like Amos Oz or David Grossman support ALL Israel criminal wars.

On the other hand, Arabic literature is very rich and sure more humanistic than Israel racist one.

N. Friedman said...


For what country were Zionists acting as colonists?

lidia said...

Zionist prop repeater thinks he is SO clever LOL

He does not know that all his(Zionist)topics I know by heart :)

Zionists ARE colonisers on others' land, no matter who founds them.

Zionism is a colonial enterprise and in the beginning, when colonialism was fasionable in Europe, they even did not try to hide it.

Now NF could tell us some more stale Zionist prop - I suppose he knows it not worse than I do :)

N. Friedman said...

Dear lidia,

One can not be a colonialist on one's on behalf. There has to be a mother country on behalf of which one is a colonialist.

That, after all, is the difference between a colonialist and an oppressed person seeking refuge in a place where refuge is available. Or, do you deny that European Jews were an oppressed people?

lidia said...

NF the Zionist calls me the bigot "dear" and tell some more Zionist rubbish.

Opressed persons? USA was founded by such persons, and it cost lives of millions of Natives and black Slaves. Rhodes brougt poor Englishmen to others' land, so I guess he was NOT a colonialist, right :)

In short, NOW Zionists do not ready to admit they are colonialists - at least we see some progress from the days of Zeev Zhabotinki, who proudly compared his own colonialism with American one ("Iron Wall").

"place where refuge is available"? Yes, after the palce were ethnic cleansed of its natives.

N. Friedman said...


If the "place" was cleansed of its Arab population, why are there still Arabs in Israel?

Colonialists, when they act to advance colonial interests, never act on their own behalf. You might take a look at the dictionary.

In the case of Jews, they simply did not act on behalf of a foreign country. They sought to help their own situation.

As you note, Americans were colonialists, who came in support of the UK. Rhodes acted for the benefit of the UK as well. Jews were not, in their return to historic Palestine, acting to benefit the UK (or any other foreign country) and the UK would never have trusted Jews, most especially Jews from the continent, to advance British colonial interests. In other words, what you write is nonsense.

Again: Jews were an oppressed people in Europe. Those who did not act to leave the continent saw oppression turn into a campaign of genocide. with millions dying. Jews were also treated as unequal in all Arab countries. The Jewish liberation movement ultimately liberated Jews both in Europe and the Arab regions. That, to you, is an inconvenient fact which your hatred of Zionism clouds.

You, evidently in support of reactionary land interests of Arabs, see the efforts of Jews, which surely could have been reconciled with Arabs, as colonialism and, at least for that reason, oppose the liberation of Jews and their return to their ancestral homeland. Moreover, you see the Palestinian Arab cause as always being wholly innocent, or at least that is the way you write about it. Perhaps you see nothing wrong with the Nazi lover, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, who led the Palestinian Arab cause prior to Israel's founding. I do. I think he is, more than anyone else, responsible for the failure of efforts to reconcile Jews and Arabs.

The reason that al-Husayni was so important to a proper understanding of events is his great hatred of Jews, even apart from the dispute between Zionists and Arabs. Perhaps you are not aware that historians Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers have recently uncovered an agreement between al-Husayni and the Nazis to exterminate all Jews in historic Palestine. In fact, in furtherance of the agreement, a special SS commando unit was formed by the Nazis in 1942 and was attached to Rommel’s African Panzer Army. The plan was modeled, in large part identically, to that of the infamous Einsatzgruppen that came with the Wehrmacht during the invasion of the USSR and that was responsible for the murder of as many as at least one million Soviet Jews. On Mallmann and Cüppers’s telling, it was only the defeat of Rommel at the second Battle of El Alamein that stopped the German forces from entering Palestine and carrying out similar operations against the Jewish population of historic Palestine.

Now, the fact is that the Arab Israeli dispute is a complicated one. It is not captured by simple minded paradigms like colonialism. The situation of Jews at the time was radically different from that of other groups. They literally faced an emergency, which required them to seek refuge. And, that means refuge wherever it is made available. As well known writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, in his book, Left in Dark Times:

First, that Arab anti-Semitism was not, as is always said, a circumstantial anti-Semitism, mainly linked to English support for the nascent Israeli state, which the Arabs therefore saw as a colonial creation: Germany, says the Grand Mufti in a statement the authors discovered, is "the only country in the world that has not merely fought the Jews at home but have declared war on the entirety of world Jewry; in this war against world Jewry, the Arabs feel profoundly connected to Germany"—one could hardly put it better!

lidia said...

NF is still polluting the blog with his (Zionist) prop. I suppose he could go on for ever :(

I simply have no time to spare to demolish all Zionist prop he wants to post here, but it does not matter - he is open enough a racist to not be of any danger here.

If he start to make too much noise , he always could be reminded that he is a racist defender of colonialism, and , by the way, that founding fathers of his favorite colonial state on Palestinian land were pals with Hitler - YES, they (Stern gang) suggested to help him fight Brits, while Grand Mufti had NO army, and had NO real power in Palestina.

And of course, Zionists also were happy when Hitler come to power - but to read about this in full I rec the very good book by Israel Shahak " Jewish History Jewish Religion" - it is available on-line.

Cheers :)

N. Friedman said...


In other words, you compare an actual agreement reached to eradicate an entire population - which was made by the leader of the Palestinian Arabs - with a proposal by a secondary group of thugs, not the leadership of the Yishuv's Jews, to help oppressed people escape their oppression. Pathetic.

lidia said...

NF is boring in his predictable lies, is he not? But he is a Zionist, so he is not really to blame :)And he is also nasty - he called Stern Gang "thugs" while they were very important part of Zionist colonial army :)

By the way, now I remeber how I got NF get lost last time...

So, I have a question for him: If Hitlers' politics meant genocide of European Jews, how come there are still Jews in Europe? (I know, the question is a silly one, but it is no more silly than NF's question about 10% of Palestinians that were not ethnic cleansed in 1948)

N. Friedman said...


The central reason there are still Jews in Europe is that the US made war against the Nazis that limited the ability of the Nazis to act. However, where the Nazis had free reign (e.g. in Poland), survival was accidental and in very small numbers. There was also was active resistance by quite a number of non-Jewish Europeans (e.g. in Denmark) to the Nazis, which undermined efforts by the Nazis. In additional, certain allies of the Nazis - e.g. the Italians - opposed the extermination policy and resisted it to considerable extent.

By contrast, al Husayni was well informed of the extermination policy and approved of it. He, moreover, made a pact with the Nazis to exterminate all of Israel's Jews.

In the case of Israel, Jews were in a position, by the end of the 1948 war to have driven out all Arabs, had that been the aim. The reason that many Arabs were not driven or flee is that Israel's policy was not to drive out all Arabs. In fact, the demise of large numbers of Palestinian Arabs was due to the war, not a preconceived plan.

Moreover, Israel, as tracing of family histories among Palestinian Arabs shows, went out of its way to leave alone those Arabs who did not act as partisans against Israel's founding. You might read Hillel Cohen's interesting book, Army of Shadows, which details the matter. Which is to say, those were forced out or fled were mostly those who had taken up arms or acted on behalf of the Arab resistance and Arab armies.

Of course, we can play your game of asserting propaganda instead of fact.

lidia said...

NF also repeats USA disinfo about the WWII, but, as I have said, I do not have spare time for him - it is all too ridiculous. I hope the majority of Arnold's readers could see for themselves.

but as a salon game I propose to check NF's Zionist "arguments" into 4 usual kinds :)

By the way, colonialists ALWAYS say they are NOT against natives if only natives could "peacefully" give up their land and freedom :(

Now something about Zionists and Europe Jews (from NYT, no less)

"A third episode involves a remark Ben-Gurion made soon after Kristallnacht in reaction to a British decision not to permit 10,000 Austrian and German Jewish children to go to Palestine but instead to offer them refuge in Britain. He stated: ''Were I to know that all German Jewish children could be rescued by transferring them to England and only half by transfer to Palestine, I would opt for the latter, because our concern is not only the personal interest of these children, but the historic interest of the Jewish people.'"

Nice of him, was it not?

N. Friedman said...


Your point appears not to be well taken. Ben Gurion's remark was made just after Kristallnacht. He had no way to know - and, in this, he had in common with most educated people (with Churchill being a real exception to the rule, he took Hitler at his word that he sought to eliminate world Jewry) - what would be the fate of European Jewry.

By contrast, al-Husayni, leader of the Palestinian Arabs, was informed exactly what was going on and, in fact, thought it a good thing.

It is always nice to assert people's misunderstandings as statements of their views on events they did not really know would happen. And, it is always nice to assert people innocence when the person was neck deep, as al-Husayni was, in efforts to kill people.

My suggestion, lidia, is that you actually look when a quote is made before saying something stupid.

lidia said...

Now, when Zionists have no agruments, they called anti-Zionists names :)

yes, NF shoul carry on, he really COULD impress somebody here :)