BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
The New York Sun January 11, 2007
A maxim in Middle East affairs to Europeans and many American advocates of
convoluted solutions is that settling the 100-year-old dispute between
Israelis and Palestinian Arabs is a sine qua non to resolving other Middle
Indeed Secretary of State Rice is reinvigorating this view with a new round
of diplomacy in the Greater Middle East, which means inevitably putting
pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian Arabs and Syrians with
withdrawals from the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
But something doesn't click here, like the whole argument. It is a red
herring from start to finish. The catastrophes in the Middle East lie in
. Internecine conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and among Palestinian Arabs;
. Absence of representative governments for 350 million Arabs;
. Uneven distribution of wealth and corruption;
. Widespread illiteracy, poverty, and illness;
. Disenfranchisement of women.
Why does resolving any of these depend on good will in the Palestinian Arab
Ever since they achieved independence in the past century, cliques of
families and army officers have ruled Arabs, be they Al Sauds in Saudi
Arabia, Al Qaddafis in Libya, Al Mubaraks in Egypt, Al Sabahs in Kuwait,
etc. They will neither share power nor are willing to pass it along. These
elites have robbed, generated corruption, instituted police states, and
observed fitful development and great injustice - all ingredients of failed
governments. Their actions have produced violent reactions including
fundamentalist jihadis that now target them and the West, which supports
them. The logical action here is to force them to reform and end repression
But the "advocates" advance the view that once America "pressures" Israel to
settle with Palestinian Arabs, enough goodwill will be generated to resolve
other matters. Manifestly, this is nonsense. Arab dictators corner the
market on power because they want it, not out of compassion for Palestinian Arabs.
The second catastrophe is growing sectarian divides, not only between
Muslims - as in Shiites vs. Sunnis - but between Arabs of different ethnic,
tribal, and religious backgrounds as with the Druze, Kurds, North African
Berbers, and among tribal clans in Somalia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. These
frictions have turned into gun battles and genocide in the Sudan, Lebanon,
Iraq, Algeria, among others. Here, again, it would be quite a stretch to
argue that Arabs and Muslims will stop killing each other once Israelis and
Palestinian Arabs kiss and make up.
Indeed, the Arabs themselves never awaited Palestinian Arab accord before
striking peace with Israel. Egypt and Jordan formalized peace treaties with
Jerusalem that still hold, regardless.
Another canard is that the Palestinian Arabs themselves are ready for
anything in the way of peace. As this is being written the only thing that
Palestinian Arabs are gearing up for is a civil war of their own. Should
Israel unilaterally return to the 1967 demarcation lines, leaving much of
the West Bank, the follow up will be a Palestinian Arab blood bath. Gaza,
evacuated by Israeli occupation troops more than a year ago, stands as a
vivid example a mess of armed factions, extortion, corruption, and Islamic
fundamentalism. Palestinian Arabs need rule of law before a settlement with
What of massive illiteracy among Arabs who, the United Nations reports, have
left 25% of their populations with no education - neither able to read nor
to write. That ranks as major problem without Israeli-Palestinian Arab
ingredients behind it.
Weapons accumulated by Arab regimes, including Egypt, which has been at
peace with Israel since 1979, serve only two purposes: fighting other
Muslims and generating billions of dollars in commissions for ruling
One has to be a die-hard conspiracy theorist to argue that any of these
issues is related to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.
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