Israel is a nuisance, and its Prime Minister the nuisance in chief, known for pompous talks at the United Nations, lecturing to the President of the United States about what is appropriate for both their countries, and reminding the world of Iranian perfidy while virtually all others are praising the openness of the new Iranian leader.
Even if many of the details remain hidden in the inner rooms of secret negotiations and the inner minds of Iranian and other heads of state, the general picture described by Benyamin Netanyahu appears to be appropriate.
As seen from here, the magnitude of Iran's nuclear program bears no resemblance to what would be needed for a peaceful program appropriate to energy generation or other civilian uses. And while the present leader accepts the fact of the Holocaust, he has not altered by a great deal the demonizing of Israel done by his immediate predecessor. Coupled with the nature of Iran's nuclear program, that in itself justifies all of Netanyahu's warnings, even if some of his rhetoric--on this and other topics--is over the top.
Moreover, the Israeli Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, has a fundamental problem. The position requires a description of a region that is so culturally different from North America (above the Rio Grande) and Europe (north and west of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union), and much closer to barbarism than anything currently allowed into western living rooms. What Israelis perceive as threats are far from what American and European leaders may conceive as real, especially if they have stayed out of the nastier parts of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and a few European cities.
Israel lives in the midst of a region where Iranians say what they do about Israel, more than a million Iraqis and one hundred thousand Syrians have died at one another's hands, and who knows how many Libyans died after Europeans and Americans thought they were ending its civil war. Saudi Arabia's rejection of a UN Security Council seat seems directed at America's blather about democracy, its dumping of a close friend in Egypt and punishing the current Egyptian leadership for its style of dealing with extremists, and backing what the Saudis view as the wrong side in Syria. It should be no surprise that a theocratic kingdom that slices off the hand of a thief and stones an adulteress is not squeamish about poison gas.
Just this weekend Israeli TV described another feature of Middle Eastern culture, in which rich old men are buying teenage girls from Syrian refugee camps for a month or two of marriage, after which they declare a divorce and send them back to the refugee camp.
While all this is happening in our time zone or only one removed from here, Americans and Europeans remain fascinated with the problems caused by Israel and its settlements.
Despite the hopes and aspirations of Americans and others, a realistic view of the Middle East sees it as closer to barbarism than anything currently elsewhere.
To be sure, barbarism is a word so political uncorrect as likely to end a conversation. Moreover, barbarism is a matter of degree, and not entirely foreign to nicer parts of the world. The Holocaust is only a generation past, American genocide against Natives a little more than half a century further back, the lynching of Blacks in the same generation as the Holocaust, and Mi Lai, Abu Ghraib, Rodney King, and Abner Louima even closer.
However, the degrees are real. The behavior of our neighbors in the Middle East are currently much closer to the cruelties of what are hopefully in the history of western nations.
Israelis have to acknowledge that not all of us are worthy of praise. What goes by the name of Price Tag represents efforts of religious and nationalist extremists to deface Muslim and Christian religious sites, and damage the personal property of Arabs. There are other cases of Jews attacking individual Arabs. Most extreme was Barch Goldstein, an American physician who lived in Kiryat Arba, and killed 29 Muslims at prayer in the mosque of Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994. No less offensive are the Jews who view Goldstein as a hero, and assemble at his grave on the anniversaries of his death.
While Israelis should recognize the sins of some, the numbers who kill Palestinians at random are a tiny fraction of the Palestinians who set out to murder Jews. Moreover, the condemnations heard from Israelis and the actions of Israeli police and judiciary are a civilization away from the actions of the Palestinian leadership that turn their killers into martyrs.
It may be too much to expect that Israeli settlements will be applauded as the leading edge of civilization, but it is not too much to demand the abandonment of BDS, and the European boycott against anything over the 1967 lines, insofar as the Palestinians opposed any negotiations for 25 years and have spent another 20 years rejecting reasonable proposals.
Currently Israeli security personnel and media commentators are pondering an uptick in what may be individual violence, or something more extensive. A Palestinian lured a naive Israeli soldier, with whom he had worked in a restaurant, to visit his village in the West Bank, where he was murdered, presumably so his body could be traded for the freedom of a relative in an Israeli security prison. In another case, two Palestinians, perhaps intent on robbery, beat to death an Israeli householder in an isolated community of the Jordan Valley. And most recently, a Palestinian from a neighborhood of Jerusalem drove his front end loader through the gate of an army base, rammed vehicles and tried to run down individuals until he was shot dead. The driver was the brother of a man killed a few years ago when he drove his bulldozer wildly through the streets of Jerusalem, creating as much havoc as he could.
While these incidents do not appear to be organized by any Islamic or nationalist organization, the very number of individual cases may reflect a pattern that spreads like a plague, until picked up and multiplied by individuals concerned to produce a third intifada.
The policy focus returns to Netanyahu and other prominent Israelis, aided by Saudis and Egyptians, against what appears to be a naive American perspective, represented in the White House and the heights of academia and other prominent places. Neither the Palestinians, the Muslim Brotherhood, nor one or another Libyan tribe appear to be the leading edge of democracy that it is wise to nurture throughout the Middle East.
It ain't anything like the better parts of the Middle West.
Click here to return to Blog home page