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April 12, 2004
Guardian: It's Israel's Fault

Once again, the London Guardian doesn't miss a chance to blame Israel for the rotten state of the Middle East, including the thugocracies at work in the 22 Arab nations surrounding it. Brian Whitaker casts the Israeli-Palestinian war as the central culprit in maintaining oppressive regimes in the area:

For more than a generation, one issue has dominated political discourse in the Middle East. It has spawned militant and terrorist groups of almost every hue, from nationalist to Islamist. It has impeded peaceful change and modernisation in the region, and it has helped to keep authoritarian regimes in power.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has not only blighted the Middle East but also provided a smokescreen for that malaise, diverting the attention of Arabs from their internal problems and providing an excuse for tired governments to survive well beyond their sell-by date. "We have emergency laws, we have control by the security agencies, we have stagnation of opposition parties, we have the appropriation of political rights - all this in the name of the Arab-Israeli conflict," a prominent Lebanese Arab told a Beirut newspaper last month.

Whitaker has it completely backwards. The original partition of the West Bank created two states, Palestine and Israel, with Jerusalem as an internationally-controlled open city. Unfortunately, the various thugocracies surrounding Israel decided to make war on the new nation not once but twice, using Palestine as its launching pad, first in 1948 and the last time in 1967. After the second time, Israel occupied the West Bank as a defense against Jordan and others invading its eastern flank. (Before doing so, Israel had 200 miles of border to defend to its east; afterwards, only 40.) The displaced Palestinian refugees were repeatedly refused entry in other Arab nations, which preferred to keep the issue alive to have an excuse for continuing their belligerency and oppression.

Decades of high-pressure diplomacy has been rendered useless by Palestinian sponsorship of terrorism -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades works directly for Arafat via his Fatah faction -- and their refusal to drop the dream of Israel's destruction. In 1997, Israel offered the Palestinians an end to occupation and statehood over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under heavy duress by the Clinton administration, in return for official recognition of Israel and an end to terrorist attacks in Israel. Yasser Arafat, elected in a farce of an election ten years ago that has yet to be repeated (and one that Whitaker characterizes as "one of the region's more credible elections" -- there's a tough standard!), turned Ehud Barak down cold and instigated the intifada and continued years of terrorist attack against Israeli civilians.

Absent Arab despotism and aggression, including their own, the Palestinians would still have their own territory free of occupation. The notion that the Israeli occupation causes Arab governments to be oppressive is to believe that Middle East history began in 1968. It hints at the preferred solution of the European Left: the dissolution of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the entire area of Jews, theoretically by deporting them all back into a Europe where anti-Semitism has reached peaks not seen since Hitler. It points to the devaluation of democracy by EU elite that they would sacrifice the region's only other functional democracy in order to placate terrorists like Arafat.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one symptom of a greater Arabian disease of oppression, non-secular rule, and corruption throughout the entire area. The Palestinians won't budge on the destruction of Israel as long as Arafat can partner with kleptocracies like Bashir Assad in Damascus and mullarchies like Iran. Once those crutches have been kicked out from under the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, the West Bank issues will sort themselves out nicely. Brian Whitaker should consult a history book and quit confusing symptoms for the sickness.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 12, 2004 1:02 PM

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Tracked on April 12, 2004 7:42 PM

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