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Monday, December 11, 2006

Arab Politics: Back to Futility

Arab Politics: Back to Futility
by Barry Rubin
Middle East Quarterly Winter 2007

After Iraq's military defeat in 1991, many in the West and in Arab states
hoped that changes in the world and region would produce a new Middle East
of pragmatism, reform, democracy, and peace. Given the Soviet Union's
collapse, growing democracy elsewhere, and U.S. emergence as sole
superpower, a better world seemed imminent. A generation of Arabs had
experienced defeat, tragedy, and stagnation. Surely, they would recognize
what had gone wrong and choose another path.

But, increasingly, they show they have not. The euphoria of the 1990s-in
light of Saddam's defeat in Kuwait, the Oslo process, and the growth of Arab
civil society-was short-lived. For much of the current decade, events have
pointed to a backward trend. First, there was Palestinian and Syrian
rejection of peace with Israel in 2000 and then re-embrace of terrorism in
the intifada. This was followed in quick succession by the fallout from the
September 11 attacks, glorifying insurgency and terrorism in Iraq, crushing
of internal liberal reform movements, and electoral advances by Hamas,
Hezbollah, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

But it was the summer 2006 war in Lebanon that reversed the new era back to
the old. The possibility of a negotiated Arab-Israeli peace and widespread
Arab progress toward democracy is dead; Islamism sets the agenda, whether it
is in or out of power. Arab dynamics now parallel those dominant in the
region between 1950 and 1990. The Arab world, now joined in spirit although
not in ethnicity by Iran, has re-embraced a previous era and is extolling
the same ideas and strategies which have led the Middle East repeatedly to
catastrophe. "It is my pleasure to meet with you in the new Middle East,"
said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on August 15, 2006. He declared his
goal to replace the "cherished Middle East" of the West, moderate Arabs, and
Israel with "a sweeping popular upsurge . characterized by honor and
Arabism," of struggle and resistance.[1] There are many reasons to think
that Assad's vision is prevailing.

The New Old Middle East

Why revitalize a world-view and program that led the Arab world into years
of defeat, wasted resources, and dictatorship and caused the region to sink
behind all but sub-Saharan Africa in most socioeconomic categories?

A large part of the answer is that this new state of affairs serves the two
groups that matter most in Arab politics: Arab nationalist dictators and the
Islamist challengers who seek to displace them. Arab regimes rejected
reforms because change threatened to unseat them. Demagoguery enabled these
regimes to continue as dictatorships, whatever their failures, while still
enjoying popular support. Radical Islamist forces, on the other hand, found
the motif of resistance and anti-Israel rhetoric useful to expand their
influence and gain power. The new Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis seeks
regional hegemony, the destruction of Israel, and the expulsion of Western
influence. These are the same goals of the old pan-Arabism, albeit under a
modified slogan of resistance to aggression. This new alliance's emergence
represents a sharp break with the past only
regarding two issues: unprecedented levels of Iranian involvement in Arab
politics accompanied by a limited ability to bridge the Sunni-Shi'ite
sectarian divide.

There are four major factors that repeat: first is the concept of resistance
against foreign powers; second is self-deception about the adversary's
strength; third is the belief in a political superhero who will lead Arabs
and Muslims to victory; and fourth is the new "resistance" axis which
promises easy and quick solutions, albeit through large-scale bloodshed. Why
compromise if total victory is achievable?

It is like a 2006 revival of a 1966 play: the old parts have been cast anew
with great faithfulness. Iran has taken over Syria's former role of
revolutionary patron although Damascus has played the role of terror sponsor
so well that it has retained this part for an amazing 40-year run, however,
with a shifting chorus. Hezbollah and Hamas are the new Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), promising to destroy Israel through non-state violence.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has assumed the role of Egyptian
president Gamal Abdel Nasser, threatening the West and toying with war while
promising easy victory to followers inside and outside his country.

Rhetoric repeats. Both the United States and Israel are demonized. There is
expectation of imminent revolution and unprecedented Arab-Muslim unity. As
there is also no victory but total victory, diplomatic compromise is
treasonous. Conspiracy theories blaming "the Zionists" and "arrogant powers"
run supreme.

The most major difference between the new and the old concepts is that what
was formerly expressed in Arab nationalist terms is now stated in Islamist
ones. The idea is that Islamism can succeed where Arab nationalism failed.
But aside from obvious differences in the content of the two ideologies and
the lack of a great power patron along the lines of the Soviet Union to
sponsor and cultivate pan-Islamists, their basic perceptions and goals are
quite parallel.

Both the Arab nationalists of a half century ago and the Islamists today
justify almost any violence. Both legitimize terrorism as just, especially
when directed against a satanic foe. Both seek Israel's destruction and an
expurgation of Western influence to create a just and even utopian society.

But Israel and the West are not the only enemies. Moderate Arab leaders are
a secondary enemy whose restraint reveals them to be traitors. Only those
who preach struggle uphold proper Arab and Muslim values. In the 1950s and
1960s, this distinction pitted Egypt, Syria, and Iraq against "reactionary"
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other monarchies. Today, it is Iran and Syria
against Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Still, the Jordanian and Saudi
monarchies remember more than they let on. Just as Nasser and Saddam
threatened them in the past, so now do the forces unleashed and encouraged
by Ahmadinejad and Assad. Just as they did in the 1960s, moderate leaders
accommodate new ideas but seek to blunt their edge so as not to fall victim
to the new order. Liberalism and reform become distractions if not enemy
tricks to be resisted.

While Arab commentators sometimes complain of the West's lack of historical
memory, there is selective amnesia among many in the region-even those
critical of the new dynamics. They refuse to recognize today's parallels
with the recent past. To acknowledge repetition of past patterns would
suggest that they are again likely to fail. Today, Islamists and Arab
nationalists may compete for power, often violently, but they both reinforce
the intellectual system and world-view that locks the Arab world into the
very problems which both ideological movements purport to remedy.

The Eve of Glory

A recurring feature of both the old and new era is a millenarian expectation
that dramatic change is imminent. This was in evidence during the period
beginning with the 1952 coup in Egypt and particularly after the 1956 Suez
war catapulted Nasser into a pan-Arab hero with followers spanning national
borders. Nasser asserted Egypt's pride and strength, ridiculed Western
powers, smashed opposition, intrigued intellectuals, and intimidated Arab
regimes that opposed him. "We would clap in proud surprise," recalled the
liberal Egyptian intellectual Tawfiq al-Hakim, discussing the 1950s and
1960s, "When he delivered a powerful speech and said about [the United
States] which had the atomic bomb that 'if they don't like our conduct, let
them drink from the sea,' he filled us with pride." The irony, he continued,
is that such rhetoric did not end economic deprivation. "Masses of people
wait for long hours in front of consumer cooperatives for a piece of meat to
be thrown to them," he remarked. Rather than strengthening Arab unity,
Nasser's sponsorship of coups, meddling, and military intervention in the
Yemeni civil war (1962-70), undercut it.[2]

At the time, few paid attention to such critiques. Nasser's nakedness was
only revealed in the 1967 war and after his death in 1970. Today, many have
forgotten this outcome. It is also instructive to recall that Nasser's
victorious reputation rested mainly on the 1956 Suez war, which was actually
a military humiliation for Egypt. Only U.S. and Soviet diplomatic
intervention saved Nasser-a situation paralleling the Lebanon war "victory"
of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah-rescued by international pressure for a
cease-fire that left Hezbollah armed and in place.

The comparison of Nasrallah and Nasser often plays on the similarity of both
men's names to the Arabic word for "victory." In Cairo, demonstrators carry
their pictures together, even though their views on political Islam were
opposite. That the Lebanese "victory" took place fifty years after the Suez
one did not escape many Arab commentators. What they did not mention,
though, was that a half-century had not brought much progress to Egypt and
that even the return of the Sinai Peninsula required American patronage and
a peace treaty with Israel.

Consistent across decades has been the search for the charismatic leader who
can produce victory. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was Nasser; in the 1970s,
Arafat and Syrian president Hafez al-Assad; in the 1980s and 1990s, it was
Saddam Hussein, then Osama bin Laden, and, perhaps now, Ahmadinejad. All
failed; all were defeated. The outcome, however, has not been to reject this
spurious hope but rather simply to seek another candidate.

Dedication over Technology

Another returning concept is that the spirit of man can overcome the balance
of forces or technology-military, industrial, or electronic. This is the
concept behind the celebration of Hezbollah, the suicide bomber, and the
rock thrower as capable of achieving victory against overwhelming odds. The
analytical emphasis on "resistance" rather than reform builds on a strong
foundation: a half-century-long indoctrination that all problems in the Arab
world are caused by Israel, the United States, and the West. The concept of
noble resistance also makes people feel good. It is an opium for the masses,
especially those
masses that only vicariously experience battle by watching others-Lebanese,
Iraqis, Palestinians-getting killed.

The "resistance" paradigm is particularly dangerous and difficult for
reformers to face because its promoters accuse anyone who questions them of
being agents of the Zionists or the West. "In a state of war," wrote the
Egyptian playwright Ali Salem whose works are banned in his own country, "no
one argues ... or asks questions. They are told that this is not the right
time to talk about free speech, democracy, or corruption, then ordered, 'Get
back to the trench immediately!'"[3]

And when, in March 2001, Baath party members asked Syrian vice-president Abd
Halim Khaddam at a public meeting why the regime did not do more to solve
the problems of corruption, incompetence, and the slow pace of reform, his
answer was that the Arab-Israeli conflict permitted no changes at home.
"This country is in a state of war as long as the occupation continues," he
said.[4] While the Syrian leadership uses the continuation of the
Arab-Israeli conflict to justify its domestic failures, it has shown little
interest in ending that conflict, in large part because anti-Israel
invectives are so useful for purposes of regime maintenance.

The rhetoric also stigmatizes alliance with the West. Bashar often attacks
the Egyptian and Jordanian governments as lackeys of the West.[5] Sometimes
that taboo is broken-such as when Kuwait and Saudi Arabia accepted Western
military assistance against Saddam Hussein in 1990. But the cost of breaking
this taboo can be high. The U.S. deployment to Saudi Arabia fueled bin
Laden's rise.[6] Rejectionists assassinated Jordan's King Abdullah I in 1951
for considering peace with Israel, murdered Egyptian president Anwar Sadat
in 1981 after he made peace with the Jewish state, and killed Lebanese
president Amin Gemayel the next year for the same reason.

Bashar, Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad, and their predecessors cite many precedents
to argue that resistance will triumph over the United States. The Chinese
"people's war" alongside the Cuban and Vietnamese "heroic guerrillas" live
on in the Arab world as if in a time capsule. Many Arabs compare Nasrallah
now-as they once did Arafat-to Che Guevera. Like the failed Latin American
revolutionary leader, Nasrallah did not overthrow governments but was a boon
to the T-shirt industry.

Islamists justify their people power rhetoric with examples ranging from the
victory over the Soviet superpower in Afghanistan (conveniently ignoring the
U.S. role in that conflict), the 9-11 attacks, and the Iraqi insurgency.
They also claim Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip
as triumphs. The Iranians can add their own revolution, the U.S. embassy
hostage crisis, and their stalemate of Saddam Hussein.

Islamists say that their victory is inevitable. An Egyptian Islamist wrote
less than a month after the September 11 attacks that the Americans are
cowards while the Muslims are brave. "The believers do not fear the enemy .
yet their enemies protect [their] lives like a miser protects his money.
They . do not enter into battles seeking martyrdom,"[7] he explained. That
such commentary appeared in a state-controlled Egyptian newspaper shows how
Arab nationalist institutions collude to promote "Islamist" ideas that feed
the resistance mentality.

There is, however, a good reason why weaker states do not provoke or go to
war against stronger ones: they lose. History is full of examples of
high-spirited, ideologically-motivated states that simply could not overcome
the odds of reality. The United States defeated Japan in World War II
despite the ideological fervor of Japanese troops and their kamikaze pilots.

Deception and Amnesia

While the defeat of Saddam Hussein in 1991 eroded the Arab belief in Western
weakness throughout the 1990s, the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000,
the 9-11 attacks, and the intensifying Iraqi insurgency have restored the
belief that the United States and Israel are weak and vulnerable. If Arabs
and Muslims are willing to martyr themselves, victory is possible. In this
respect, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal,
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
sound eerily like Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, Egyptian president Gamal
Abdel Nasser, and Syrian president Salah Jadid in the 1960s. Such thinking
led ultimately to the Arab defeat in the 1967 war.

Among the most potent recent Arab political memories are those of losing
wars in 1967, 1973, and 1982. The losses reflect the suffering, waste,
dictatorship, and squandered resources of the second half of the twentieth
century. This history was a potential resource, demonstrating the failure of
radical methods, intransigence, and violence. In the 1990s, many Arabs faced
this history and began to reconsider strategy. If Israel could not be
destroyed, then perhaps a deal was preferable. If the United States was so
powerful, perhaps alliance would be more productive than antagonism. If
Arabs were flagging in every economic, scientific, and social category,
perhaps comprehensive reform was necessary.

Such introspection has now been reversed. A new generation has adopted a new
ideology that discounts the applicability of the Arab nationalist
experience. New populists argue that the Arabs made no mistakes but simply
did not struggle with sufficient fervor nor follow the proper ideology. Once
a resistance mentality shreds this memory of experience, it may be necessary
to proceed down a decades-long ordeal of relearning lessons the hard way
before there is another opportunity for real progress.

In contrast to the resistance mentality, any consideration of the balance of
forces suggests the West would achieve a lopsided victory in a conflict with
Arab or Muslims states. But what if such an assessment of military hardware
were an illusion? As Winston Churchill said of the Soviet Union in his
famous 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, marking the beginning of the Cold
War, "I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is
the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and
doctrines."[8] Many Islamists may consider the West in general and the
United States in particular too craven to fight and stupid enough to be

Such was the argument Saddam Hussein made before invading Kuwait in 1990 and
up to his 2003 downfall. Still, the fate of Iraq's dictator has not
prevented Ahmadinejad from calling America a "superpower made of straw."[9]

Saddam's analysis rested on a series of examples. Speaking at the Royal
Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan, on February 24, 1990, he explained that
the Americans had run away from Vietnam and Lebanon (in 1983) and abandoned
the shah of Iran. He argued that they would not fight or at least would not
have staying power. Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
agreed with him on this point, if on nothing else, noting on November 7,
1979, in connection with the hostage crisis, that the United States "could
not do a damn thing"[10] to stop the Islamist revolution.

Bin Laden himself explained, "[Those whom] God guides will never lose .
America [is] filled with fear from the north to south and east to west .
[Now there will be] two camps: the camp of belief and of disbelief."[11] He
designed the September 11 attack to puncture the myth of American power, to
show U.S. vulnerability, and in terms of Muslim perception, the attack was a

The basic approach of Bashar's new Middle East has already permeated
throughout the Arab world, from Yemen's president advocating immediate war
with Israel,[12] to Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir boasting that he would
rather fight the U.N. than let its forces into Darfur. "We've done the
math . We've found out that a confrontation is a million times better for
us,"[13] he explained. Bashir calculates that despite his military weakness,
not only does the West lack the will to back its rhetoric with force, but
his own demagogic response will win him support at home and among other Arab
and Muslim countries. His goal is not war but the fruits of war.

Perceptions of Israel

Regarding Israel, though, it is not so easy to separate brinksmanship from
actual fighting. The strategists of the new resistance strategy, like their
earlier predecessors, believe that big talk, terrorism, and proxy attacks
will bridge the gap. This reflects a dangerous misreading of Israeli
society. When Nasrallah and other radical Islamists today speak about
Israel, they echo verbatim what Arafat and Arab nationalists said in the
1960s. Basically, their speech boils down to a belief that with sufficient
resolve, the Muslims can triumph. Failure to date reflects the cowardliness
of Arab leadership unwilling to press the fight.

Such thinking produced four decades of disaster for the Arab world. It began
when Arab leaders announced in the 1960s that they soon would defeat Israel
and throw the Jews into the sea, only for the Arab states to lose
overwhelmingly in the Six-Day war. Thereafter, Arafat and others bragged
that guerrilla warfare would do the trick, a parallel to Hezbollah's
thinking today.
In the 1970s, this dynamic resulted in civil wars in Jordan and Lebanon,
repeated battlefield defeats, suffering, and waste of billions of dollars in
resources. Such thinking has laid waste to the Gaza Strip three times
between 1989 and 2006. The Arab world is alone in the world in the near
monopoly of dictatorships since generations of rejectionists argued that
only authoritarian governments could defeat Israel and expel Western

Consistent across all these flights of fantasy and failure has been, except
perhaps for brief periods in the 1990s, incomprehension of Israel. Arab
nationalists and Islamists misinterpreted newspaper columns and public
debate for discord. Since they did not want Israel to exist, they treated it
as an illusion. Israel was weak, divided, and cowardly; it would crumble.
Just as Egypt and Syria once used Jordan and Lebanon as launch platforms for
PLO proxy attacks, today the Iranian government is using Lebanon and
Hezbollah in the same way. Both the PLO and Hezbollah analyze Israel
incorrectly. In 1968, Arafat explained, "The Israelis have one great fear,
the fear of casualties."[14] In 1970, a PLO official said that internal
division would fragment Israel and force the Jews to leave. "Zionist efforts
to transform them into a homogeneous, cohesive nation have failed," he
said.[15] The parallels with today's Islamist rhetoric are striking. On July
29, 2006, Nasrallah declared, "When the people of this tyrannical state
loses its faith in its mythical army, it is the beginning of the end of this
entity."[16] Had Nasrallah understood that Israel suffered heavier losses
fighting PLO terrorists in the 1960s when the country's population was far
smaller without political or social upheaval, he may not have initiated
what, for the Lebanese, was so reckless a fight.

Yet, Nasrallah says, as Arafat did over his four decades atop the PLO, that
their fighting demonstrated Israel's army to be "helpless, weak, defeated,
humiliated, and a failure."[17] Of course, such propaganda is aimed to win
the masses' cheers and the cadres' steadfastness, but the leaders, too,
believe it. After all, they base their strategy and tactics on it. Both the
PLO then, and Hamas and Hezbollah now, see terrorism as the key to victory.
They use terrorism not because they are evil but rather because they believe
terrorism will work against Israel. By attacking civilian targets, Arafat
said in 1968, the PLO would "weaken the Israeli economy" and "create and
maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to
realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel."[18]

In the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel in an attempt
to damage that country's economy and create such an atmosphere by displacing
so many Israelis or forcing them into bomb shelters for two weeks. Zaghlul
an-Najjar, a columnist for the flagship Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote,
"Imagine what would [happen] to this oppressive entity [Israel] if an oil
embargo was imposed on it, if its air force was destroyed in a surprise
attack, and if all the Arab countries around it fired rockets on it
simultaneously and decided to put an end to its crimes and its filth. [If
this happens], this criminal entity which threatens the entire region with
mass destruction will not continue to exist on its stolen land even one more
The column was no fluke. Two weeks later, the same paper carried a similar
article arguing that Hezbollah had changed
history by demonstrating Israel's weakness.[20] The Egyptian government does
not want war with Israel, but such demagoguery inoculates the Egyptian
regime against radical criticism although only at the expense of
legitimizing rejectionist incitement to the point where, collectively, it
can be difficult to step back.

Transforming Defeat into Victory

The Arab reaction to the 2006 Lebanon war follows a tradition whereby Arabs
transform military defeats into victories. The 1956 Sinai war is a case in
point. Another superb example is what happened at Karama, Jordan, in March
1968. The Israeli army crossed the Jordan River and destroyed the main Fatah
camp there. Israel lost 21 men while Fatah lost 150.
But Arafat argued that Karama was a great victory for Fatah. He juxtaposed
Fatah's supposed heroism against the Arab armies' incompetence and apparent
cowardice the previous year during the Six-Day war. Ironically, it was the
Jordanian army that resisted the Israel Defense Forces at Karama, not Fatah.
Nevertheless, Palestinians embraced the illusion. Thousands begged to join
Fatah; Nasser invited Arafat to come to Cairo to be his protיgי, and Arafat
cemented his career. [21] Thirty-five years of bloodshed and political
failure followed.

The Egyptian government used the 1973 Yom Kippur war in the same manner.
While the initial Egyptian offensive was brilliant and its use of new
antitank weapons successful, the Israeli military rallied and Egypt lost the

The PLO provides another example. After its 1982 defeat in Lebanon,
culminating in the group's expulsion from the country, Arafat declared
victory and his colleague, Khalid al-Hasan, proclaimed, "We should not
become arrogant in the future as a result of this victory."[22] There was
some introspection. Isam Sartawi, the PLO's leading moderate, sought an
investigation of the poor PLO military performance. He urged the PLO to
"wake up" and leave the "path of defeat" that had led to the 1982 debacle.
Sartawi ridiculed the organization's victory claims. "Another victory such
as this," he joked, "and the PLO will find itself in the Fiji Islands."[23]
Two months after voicing his complaints, Palestinian terrorists murdered
Sartawi.[24] Criticism can be silenced, and imagination can persuade people
that defeat is victory, but imagination is never enough to produce military

Another repeating feature of the resistance mentality is the idea that wars
redeem Arab honor. Whether at Karama in 1968, in the Sinai in 1973, or after
both Palestinian intifadas, Arabs have claimed redemption of honor through
violence. Claims that Hezbollah forced Israel out of southern Lebanon and
Hamas expelled Israel from the Gaza Strip reinforce the trend. The
problem is that the quest for honor is insatiable. No sooner is honor
restored then there are demands for further redemption.

During the 1990s, reformers stated that the true way to raise Arab dignity
was not through fighting Israel or the West, but by prioritizing building of
a productive economy, higher living standards, equality for women, an
independent judiciary, honest media, and good educational and health
systems. The re-embrace of resistance, though, has pushed these items off
the agenda, bringing resistance not only to Israel's existence, but also to
changes the Arab world needs.

In 1966, a revolutionary Baath faction ruled Syria. Headed by Salah Jadid,
it was willing to take great risks in its struggle against imperialism and
Zionism. With the Six-Day war, the regime got its wish. And, again, for
decades later, such willingness to sacrifice was lauded. Yusif al-Rashid, a
columnist for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Anba, illustrated this paradox in an
August 2006 column. "The Lebanese people may have lost a lot of economic and
human resources" in the 2006 war, he writes, but such calculations aside,
"They have achieved a lot of gains. Heroic resistance fighters have proven
to the world that Lebanese borders are not open to Israeli tanks without a
price. Lebanon was victorious in the battle of dignity and honor."[25]
Accordingly, suffering, death, the return of Syrian suzerainty, the
possibility of augmented sectarianism and civil war, and stripping Lebanon
of all its recent financial gains were, to this non-Lebanese Arab,
worthwhile because it made Arabs feel better about their dignity and honor.


Today, Islamism repeats the history of Arab nationalism in remarkable detail
whether with exaggerated promises of victory, intoxication with illusionary
triumphs, or misapplication of resources. Popularity derived by the
demonization of Israel, the United States, and the West by Iran, Syria, and
Hezbollah is little different from the demonization by Arab nationalists in
the past.

In some ways, a world-view so out of touch with reality is collective
insanity, but there is much method to those who promulgate such madness. The
resistance paradigm is an excellent tool for regime preservation, as it was
earlier for Arab nationalist movements, and it is a useful tool to mobilize
support for radical Islamist groups. But the cost of such a paradigm is
clear: no reform and squandered resources.

Resistance propaganda is so pervasive-in schools, mosques, the media, and
both government and opposition rhetoric-that it takes the greatest courage
and strength of character to stand against it. Those willing have, for the
time being, lost.

"Oh, Master of Resistance," wrote the Syrian state-run newspaper Tishrin on
August 3, 2006, in an ode to the man who set Lebanon back twenty years, "You
have cloaked yourself in honor merely by writing the first page in the book
of deterring and defeating the Zionist-American invaders, along with all
those who are hiding behind them. No one thinks that the [war] will be won
today, tomorrow, or [even] next year-but it is the beginning of the end, and
the road towards victory has begun." And so we are at the start of a long,
long road of conflict, just as Arabs stated in the 1950s. Perhaps some time
around 2035, a new opportunity will emerge.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His
book, The Truth about Syria, will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan in
April 2007.

[1] Syrian television, Aug. 15, 2006, in Foreign Broadcast Information
Service, U.S. Department of Commerce (hereafter FBIS).
[2] Tawfiq al-Hakim, The Return of Consciousness (New York: New York
University Press, 1985), p. 50.
[3] Ali Salem, "My Drive to Israel," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2002, pp.
[4] The New York Times, Mar. 12, 2001.
[5] See, for example, Bashar al-Assad, speech at the Fourth General
Conference of the Syrian Journalists Union, Damascus, Aug. 15, 2006; Syrian
television, Aug. 15, 2006.
[6] Uriya Shavit, "Al-Qaeda's Saudi Origins," Middle East Quarterly, Fall
2006, pp. 3-13.
[7] Al-Jumhuriya (Cairo), Oct. 7, 2001.
[8] Winston S. Churchill, "Iron Curtain Speech," Mar. 5, 1946, Internet
Modern History Sourcebook, accessed Sept. 18, 2006.
[9] Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) television, Feb.1, 2006,
speech in Bushehr, Iran, translation in Middle East Media Research Institute
(MEMRI), Special Dispatch Series, no. 1084, Feb. 2, 2006.
[10] Speech at Isfahan University, FBIS, Nov. 8, 1979.
[11] Al-Jazeera television (Doha), Oct. 7, 2001.
[12] Al-Jazeera, Aug. 1, 2006, translation in MEMRI, clip no. 1217.
[13] Al-Jazeera, Aug. 29, 2006, translation in MEMRI, clip no. 1255.
[14] "Yassir Arafat," Third World Quarterly, Apr. 1986; South, Jan. 1986, p.
[15] Al-Anwar symposium, Mar. 8, 1970, cited in Yehoshafat Harkabi, The
Palestinian Covenant and Its Meaning (London: Frank Cass, 1979), p. 12
[16] Al-Manar television (Beirut), July 29, 2006, in MEMRI, Special Dispatch
Series, no. 1224, Aug. 1, 2006.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Interview, International Documents on Palestine, 1968 (Washington,
D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1968), p. 300.
[19] Al-Ahram (Cairo), Aug. 14, 2006.
[20] Al-Ahram, Aug. 29, 2006.
[21] See Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political
Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 38-45.
[22] Al-Madina (Medina), Aug. 31, 1982, in FBIS, Sept. 9, 1982.
[23] Muhammad Anis, "An Interview with 'Isam Sartawi," Al-Musawwar (Cairo),
Mar. 25, 1983.
[24] Ibid.; Al-Hawadith (Baghdad), Mar. 4, 1983.
[25] Associated Press, Aug. 17, 2006.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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