As I wrote in an earlier post, the politics of the new Middle East is making the strangest bedfellows and the unlikeliest adversaries. The US Administration is actively distancing itself from Israel, and even slandering it. (I covered Obama and Kerry’s Jew baiting a couple of weeks ago.) The Administration has descended even further and has now stooped to accusing veteran Democrat Senators of dual-loyalty, Israel-firstism and even treason (!) because they object to the Iran deal on purely objective reasons. The Jewish online magazine Tablet Magazine has an outstanding article on this smearing of Jewish objectors to the Iran deal in Crossing a Line to Sell a Deal.
What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple. Accusing Senators and Congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States, is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.
This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives. Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests” who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card. It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the President of the United States—and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.
Here is just one example of the slurs cast at Senator Chuck Schumer:
The White House has also accused Israel of interfering in US affairs over the Iran deal – which is a bit rich coming from the same White House that actively interfered in Israel’s elections, funding an NGO and sending Obama’s PR guru to help the opposition in their efforts to get anyone but Netanyahu elected.
In stark contrast to the barely concealed hostility to Israel issuing from the White House, our erstwhile enemies are beginning to see the light, and not only on the Iran issue.
Mudar Zahran, the Jordanian-Palestinian commentator, warns that if Israel disappears, others will too: (via Miriam C.)
Since 1948, we Arabs have been taught that all we need to do is get rid of the Jewish state, and everything else will go well after that. Our dictators took full advantage of this idea. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser locked up and executed his opposition members using his famous excuse: “No voices are to be allowed except for those for the war with Israel.” Iraqi President Saddam Hussein adopted the Palestinian flag and had it printed, distributed and flown alongside his own flag, and even said, “Palestine and Iraq share the same identical cause.” In short, we Arabs have put 70 years of our existence on hold while awaiting that ”glorious day” when we defeat Israel and “feed the Jews to the fish.”
But that day did not come, nor does it seem to be coming, as Jordanian opposition figure Emad Tarifi once told me: “It seems the fish in the sea are not betting on us feeding them Jews.”
It is not only Arabs who want Israel gone. There are others who seek the same, for example anti-Semites in the West. … There are groups calling for a boycott of Israel “for the sake of the Palestinian people.” There are countries whose entire foreign policy seems to revolve around opposition to Israel. We Palestinians might have believed that these groups and countries actually care about us, but they take no interest in the fate of the 150,000 Palestinians being starved to death in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp, nor in an estimated 5.8 million Palestinians in Jordan (as indicated by a U.S. Embassy cable) who live as second-class citizens and are banned from government jobs and any form of state benefits while paying full taxes.
If these Israel-haters got their wish to see Israel disappear, what would happen?
First, Israel is the only reason Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons. Iran could buy the technology to produce them, or could learn it quickly the way Pakistan did. Why has Iran been slow in doing so? Because it learned a lesson from the experience of Saddam’s Osirak reactor, which Israeli jets reduced to rubble in 1981.
If Israel were to disappear and be replaced by a Palestinian state, the Palestinians would most likely end up with another Arab dictatorship that oppresses them and reduces them to poverty. We have partially seen that with the Palestinian Authority and the “liberated” areas it rules.
In short, if the day were to come when Israel falls, Jordan, Egypt and many others would fall, too, and Westerners would be begging Iran for oil.
Do you think anyone in the West, Let alone in the Middle East, is listening to Zaharan’s cry in the wilderness? Judging by current headlines, I fear not.
Ali SalemAli Salem, an Egyptian writer, writes from a more positive viewpoint, reassuring his countrymen that Israel has no intention of occupying Sinai, and that cooperation between Egypt and Israel would only benefit the region:
On July 8, 2015, following the series of brutal attacks carried out in the Sinai by terrorist organizations, especially Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, which is affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS), the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm published an article by Egyptian playwright, author and political commentator ‘Ali Salem in which he criticized the Egyptian government’s neglect of the peninsula. According to Salem, the Egyptians did not develop the Sinai due to fears by the country’s elite that Israel would occupy the territory, which would leave any development projects in the peninsula in Israeli hands. Salem decisively argued that Israel would not undertake such a foolish act.
Salem also criticized Egypt’s reluctance to normalize cultural relations with Israel out of fear that Israeli cultural influence would endanger the Egyptian regime. He argued that it was actually the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled Arab regimes, as opposed to cultural ties with Israel, which he argued would benefit the region.
Salem further said that Egypt would defeat the terrorism in the Sinai and that Israel does not exploit Egyptian violations of the peace treaty to create tension between the countries because it looks forward to improving relations in the long term. Salem concluded that the regional situation would improve once the Egyptian and Israeli peoples cooperated with each other.
Read the rest of the article. Again, here we have a clear-eyed Arab writer viewing the region much more realistically than the blinkered White House and its absurd Administration.
The last item I present to you here (via MEMRI) is on a slightly different subject but related nevertheless. Since Barack Obama and several of his highest officials have expended so much effort in denying that Islam has anything to do with violence, it is eye-opening indeed to read a call, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, from Iyad Abu Shakra, a Lebanese journalist to recognize precisely the opposite: that there is indeed a connection between terrorism and Islam. Abu Shakra quotes another Lebanese journalist, Nadim Koteich, with a similar viewpoint.
First, Abu Shakra’s article “For Years, Crimes Have Been Carried Out In The Name Of Islam As Muslims Stand Idly By“:
“This reminds me that in January, following the murderous attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the stream of Arab and Muslim condemnations claiming that it ‘does not represent true Islam,’ my colleague [Lebanese journalist] Nadim Koteich published a spot-on analysis… He asked in his piece: ‘So what is this true Islam that those who condemn crimes committed in the name of Islam are supposed to be bestowing upon us?…’ After providing several examples of crimes committed by Sunni and Shi’ite extremists, he said that the perpetrators ‘all belong to the true Islam…’
“[He added:] ‘It doesn’t matter which Islamic text, whether it is a Koranic or jurisprudential text, or a text recounting the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad; the killers do not kill for nothing, they kill in the name of books, fatwas, ayahs, and age-old tradition. All of these things are inseparable parts of true Islam. They will remain Muslims as long as they pronounce the shahada and as long as the religious institution doesn’t dare to modernize the criteria for being a Muslim. ‘These killers are us. They are our religion at its most extreme. They are our true Islam taken to its furthest extent and they are not beyond the scripture.’
“I reject the attitude that tries to understand ‘circumstances’ – that is, [as an] action [that sparked] a reaction… The time for excuses and apologies is over. It is time for a fundamental solution.”
And from Nadim Koteich’s article, “The ISIS Murderers Belong To Islam, Rely On Islam’s Texts”:
“So what is this true Islam that those who condemn crimes committed in the name of Islam are supposed to be bestowing upon us? Beyond condemnation, what confrontation with the criminals have the proponents of true Islam been engaged in since the defeat of the Mu’tazila – the defeat of rationality in Islam 1,100 years ago?…
“It doesn’t matter which Islamic text, whether it is Koranic or jurisprudential, or a text recounting the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad; the killers do not kill for nothing, they kill in the name of books, fatwas, ayahs, and age-old tradition. All of these things are inseparable parts of true Islam. They will remain Muslims as long as they pronounce the shahada and as long as the religious institution doesn’t dare to modernize the criteria for being a Muslim.
“These killers are us. They are our religion at its most extreme. They are our true Islam taken to its furthest extent, and they are not beyond the scripture. If the West says in one united voice ‘we are Charlie’ we should say ‘we are ISIS.’
I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that people who are directly immersed in Muslim culture, i.e. other Muslims, can see the violence inherent in Islam more clearly than well-meaning Western liberals. Nevertheless one would expect such august bodies as the White House, the State Department, the UN and EU, to have enough resources at hand to spot the same dangers.
But there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.