Thursday, September 22, 2011


When the revolutions of so-called "enlightenment" occured in Europe from the 18th century onwards and cries of "liberte, fraternite et egalite" were heard throughout the lands formerly controlled by Emperors and Kings, it was believed that a new era of democracy would be ushered in. At least this was the liberal interpretation. But, instead the removal of the monarchies and their heavy hand of control gave rise to popular movements that were anything but enlightened. In France you had the Revolution, that swept away all constaints and ended up guillotining thousands of "aristocrats" (see for example Simon Schama's magisterial "Citizens"), in Germany the removal of petty Junkers and Landgraves resulted in virulently anti-Semitic popular movements that led to National Socialism (see for example "The Pity of it All" by Amos Elon) and in Russia, the Revolution went from Romanovs to Communists who held power for 70 years and murdered millions (see for example "The Gulag Archipelago" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn).

So my question is, why should we expect a gradual evolution to democracy and reason in the Muslim Lands that are undergoing social revolutions, that have been mis-named "The Arab Spring," merely because they have removed petty and controlling dictators? Maybe this is a transition that every human society must go through to get to liberal democracy, or maybe there are some societies that at their core are not liberal and when their passions are released will automatically turn on the weakest elements. Hence the Egyptian mob that ransacked the Israeli Embassy is but a harbinger of things to come. Incidentally, the so-called democracy of Iraq is in reality a battle-ground between Sunni and Shia and is becoming effectively an Iranian colony. Syria is not only undergoing a revolt against the Alawite dictatorship of Pres. Assad, but is likely to continue into a further bloodbath when the Sunnis take revenge on the Alawites. Libya and Egypt are effectively under military control and who knows where they will end up.

This leaves Israel in a difficult position, not only are we the only liberal democracy in the region, but we are surrounded by these huge populations that are ignorant of reality, that believe all sorts of nasty rumors ("Israelis delight in killing Palestinian children," "Jews are sons of pigs and dogs," "9/11 was part of a Zionist conspiracy" etc., etc.). And add to this the gradual transition of Turkey from secular democracy to Islamic State, with a strong tinge of imperial and anti-Israel emphasis.

Since the Arab world is rife with division and instability, foreign powers are slavering over the potential carving up of the spoils. In this context you can put Iran (the Shia champion), America (unwittingly being drawn into a regional power play) and Turkey (former colonial master of the Arabs). Turkey PM Erdogan's recent tour of Arab countries is definitely part of his campaign to curry favor with the Arabs. Israel is caught in the middle. It will require a tough leader to guide Israel through the Scylla and Charybdis of this mess. But, although Israel is small, it is a regional player and must exercise its might and brights to survive the coming challenges. Seen in this context the Palestinian situation is not a cause as many erroneously think, but rather a side issue of the main game. The leaders of Israel must not be distracted by stories of Palestinian "suffering" and need for a state, they must focus on the strengthening of Israel for the coming battle against renewed Arab and Muslim extremism that has little memory of past defeats.
*To all my loyal readers I wish you a Happy New Year, Shana Tovah, and a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling year ahead.
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