So what is the mess in the Middle East anyway?

In recent years, a welcome change happened in how people look at the Middle East conflict(s). The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer considered to be the mother of all problems. I welcome the change, because there are many other, deepseated problems, and without resolving them Israel will not be able to reach an accomodation with the Palestinians.

Many Arabs blame the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 as the beginning of their foes. Since in the Zionist narrative, Sykes Picot loom large as a turning point that benefitted the Zionist agenda, many Israelis and Jews worldwide balk at this pronouncement of Sykes Picot as the origin of Arab problems. And yet...

Before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Arabs had already revolted against Istanbul several times seeking autonomy for the Arab provinces of the Empire, and they intention was to restore a unified Arab entity including the Arabian peninsula, the fertile crescent (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories) and Egypt. It was with the understanding that England would support the emergence of such an Arab entity that the Hashemite family supported the fight against the Ottomans during World War I. E. T. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") warned London about these expectations. Yet the British, intent on establishing a regime or regimes which would secure their control of the oil fields and the continuing alliance with France and Russia, ignored the warnings and went on to create a plan for the division of the Arab heartland creating what, for all intent and purposes, amount to artificial borders.

To sustain the geopolitical environment that emerged from Sykes Picot, the West supported the rise of autocratic regimes in each of the newly-formed nations, and with these dictatorial regimes, of course, the emergence of an Arab elite benefitting from the arrangement. This move ignored the deep division existent in the Middle East between Arabs and non-Arabs (Kurds, Druzes, Assyrians, etc) as well as the sense of commonality among Arabs in the different newly created Nation States. This created an ongoing tension between the Nation States and the popular cravings for a unified Arab entity. The failure of these newly created states to provide for the needs of their people, as well as to deliver on the Arab dream of Arab Unity allowed the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Hajj Amin Al Husseini, to position the Liberation of Palestine and the expulsion of the Jews at the center of the Arab Agenda, as reflected in the Alexandria Protocols of 1943 which served as the foundation for the Arab League. And yet, the dictators also failed to "liberate Palestine", adding that failure to the long list of frustration of the common Arab on the street and making it part an dparcel of their grievances against their leaders.

Eventually, something had to give - and there it came the so-called "Arab Spring" in 2010-2011. This massive popular uprising against the "old order" was an attempt by the masses to have their grievances addressed. In each country, the results were different - but in all cases it signaled the end of "bussiness as usual". This development, along with the rise in power by Iran and its ongoing confrontation with Saudi Arabia, has changed forever the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Israel finds itself now in an informal aligment with Saudi Arabia against Iran; Russia reached some kind of agreement with Iran, Syria's Assad and Turkey. Turkey continues to distance itself from the US and NATO. Iran is cementing control of Iraq and Lebanon. Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in some form of "Cold War" in which they confront each other by proxy in Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain and of course Syria. Egypt is going through an isolationist period trying to prop its failing economy, and the Arab speaking countries of Northern Africa (NOT ETHNICALLY Arab) are fighting to stay afloat.

In this context, the Arab world is having a second look at the Palestinian case, and the assumptions that have been in place since the days of the Mufti are crumbling. A growing choir of voices is rising in Arab intellectual circles for normalization with Israel, but also another choir of voices is reaffirming the irredentist position of eliminating Israel.

The Middle East in still a very dangerous neighborhood. Israel has, however, reached its dream of being treated by the neighbors as they treat each other... the problem is, however, the ways they DO treat each other. Only a comprehensive solution to the overall problems of legitimacy in the Arab world, sectarian divisions and the atrocious record on Human rights in the Arab world can solve ther problem(s) of the Middle East. Maybe then, neighbors will stop killing each other and Israel will be safe.

Until then, "Our Father, Our King, protect the State of Israel, the flowering of our redemption"


Add Comment