Inconvenient truths about Middle East
By Gary L. Broder
The continuing chaos in the Arab world should give us all a great deal of concern. It also should cause us to examine inconvenient truths about the Arab Middle East.
One would like to be hopeful, for example, about the possibility of real democracy in Egypt. However, in at least 4,000 years of Egyptian history, there has never been a democratic government there. Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship took over from Anwar Sadat's dictatorship, which took over from Abdul Nasser's dictatorship, which took over by military coup from a king. Was Mubarak really so different from a biblical pharaoh?
There is only one real democracy in the Middle East: Israel. All of the other countries are military or civilian dictatorships, kingdoms or principalities. Ironically, the country in the Middle East where Arabs enjoy the greatest freedom is Israel. One would like to say a reciprocal relationship exists for Jews who live in Arab lands. But although Jews lived for hundreds of years in countries like Algeria, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, they were forced out or fled.
The United States has only one real ally in the Middle East - Israel - and should start treating it as such. The Arab Middle East hates Israel, in part because of anti-Semitism, but also because Israel is seen by the Arab world as America's outpost in the Middle East. The very facts that make Israel America's only ally in the Middle East make the Arab world hate Israel and distrust the United States.
I would not dare predict what will happen in the Arab world. Obviously, once again, our CIA didn't do its job. But there are some conclusions to be drawn and lessons to be learned.
First, America is partly at fault for backing stability over democracy. This has been our foreign policy for most of the 20th century, not only in the Middle East but in most of the world. By the very choices we have made, we engage on a national level in the kind of immorality the Arab world accuses us of on a personal level.
Second, we have sold our souls for Arab oil for decades. When are we going to learn? We know what we need to do, and we have started to do it. We need to accelerate the pace: alternative fuels, greater energy efficiency, conservation, etc.
Third, cut back on most foreign aid, especially in the form of military armaments, to nondemocratic Arab countries. Put in real controls to prevent those countries' leaders from stealing it for themselves. Let wealthy Arab nations provide economic assistance to their poorer brethren. If the United States still thinks assisting these countries is in our national interest, dramatically increase the Peace Corps presence there, which will provide direct help to those who need it most.
Fourth, the media need to increase their coverage of foreign affairs, not just when there is a crisis. We could do this by cutting back on the incredible amount of junk we now broadcast as news and entertainment. Unfortunately, the media are cutting back on foreign coverage, not increasing it.
Fifth, Israel has a historical claim to the Land of Israel, as detailed in the Torah more than 3,300 years ago. It not only includes present-day Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, but also parts of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The Arabs who call themselves Palestinians can ask for anything they want, but that does not translate into historical entitlement.
America's failure to assess the situation in the Middle East correctly is based upon two misconceptions. The first is that appeasement of the Palestinians will stop their commitment to terrorism and the destruction of Israel. It will not. The second is that the other Arabs really care about the Palestinians. They do not. They are incapable of running their own countries. If they did care, they would have taken the Palestinians into their own countries and provided them with financial assistance, other than illicit military equipment.
Now is the time to insist on justice in the Middle East, but real justice based upon principles that only the United States and Israel currently share in common.
Gary L. Broder is a lawyer who lives in Waterbury.