Israel in the Middle East
Abridged from: “A View from the Eye of the Storm”
Professor Haim Harari, a theoretical physicist, was born in Jerusalem in 1940 into a family that had lived in the region for five generations. From 1988 to 2001 he was President of Israel's leading scientific institution, the Weizmann Institute. In 2004 he gave a speech entitled "A View from the Eye of the Storm", which caused worldwide sensation because of its insights into the problems of the Middle East. He also turned it into a book of the same name. This backgrounder is abridged from his landmark speech.
The entire Middle East, from Pakistan to Morocco, is predominantly Arab and Moslem. Israel, in spite of what you might read or hear in the world media, is not the central issue here. The root of the trouble is that most of this region is dysfunctional.
The 22 member countries of the Arab League have a total population of 300 million, and a land area larger than Europe. Yet with all their oil and natural resources, they have a combined GDP smaller than that of the Netherlands and Belgium. The gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief, and corruption is rampant. The status of women is below what it was in the Western world 150 years ago. Human rights are below any reasonable standard. Levels of literacy and scientific progress are low. Birthrates are high, further increasing poverty, social gaps and cultural decline. However, the extremists of their religion, ruling most of the region, pursue global supremacy.
These conditions lead to dictatorship, terror, fanaticism, incitement, and general decline. Almost everybody in the region blames this situation on the United States, Israel, Western civilization, Judaism and Christianity - on anyone and anything, except themselves.
The current World Conflict, which perhaps we should call "undeclared World War III", has four main pillars:
1. Suicide murder: The Western world does not yet understand this potent weapon. Its direct impact is relatively minor, but its psychological effect is devastating. Suicide murder has nothing to do with true religious beliefs, nor with poverty and despair; it serves a political agenda. Suicide bombings do not occur in the poorest regions of the world.
You can reduce your vulnerability, but you cannot win this war in a defensive way. The only way to fight this new weapon is the way the world fought piracy - go on the offensive, and destroy their leadership.
2. Words - or more precisely, lies: Words can kill. The level of incitement and dissemination of deliberate fabrication have reached new heights in the region.
Those who finance, arm and dispatch suicide murderers condemn terror when speak in English to of Western TV cameras, but routinely say the opposite in Arabic to their media. Incitement by Arab TV has become a powerful weapon; little children are raised into murderous hatred to America, Israel, to the whole West, and to admire "martyrs" - and the West does not notice.
Words also work in more subtle ways. Murderers are called "the military wing"; those who pay, equip and send them are called "the political wing", and the head of the operation is called a "spiritual leader". These terms, used not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media, provide an emotional infrastructure and legal protection for atrocities.
3. Money: Huge amounts are channeled to the direct support of terror, funding weaponry, travel, hideouts and intelligence. A wider circle of terror supporters, planners, commanders and preachers, serve as infrastructure. A third circle of religious, educational and welfare organizations brainwash a new generation - half the population of the Arab world is under 20, most receptive to incitement. Money makes all these circles operational and Western money also participates, in the name of charity and to pro-terror NGO's.
4. Breakdown of Law: The West believes in democracy, rule of law, human rights, free speech and a free press. The West can't not easily understand and deal with a counterpart which does not respect the law and any of these five values.
We have an entire new set of moral dilemmas, like:
Do you raid a place of worship that serves as terrorist ammunition storage?
Do you return fire if attacked from a hospital?
Do you search every ambulance after some were used by murderers to reach their targets?
Do you shoot a terrorist leader? who deliberately surrounds himself with children?
Summary: The West doesn't want to face these questions, but they cannot be avoided.
What can we do? In the short run, only fight and win. In the long run, educate the next generation. But before you fight and win by force and otherwise, you have to realize that you are in a war.
"I have no doubt" said Professor Harari "that the civilized world will prevail. But the longer it takes us to understand the new landscape of this world conflict, the more costly and painful the victory will be. Europe, more than any other region, is the key. Its understandable recoil from wars, following the horrors of World War II, may cost thousands of additional innocent lives before the tide will turn."
Read the whole article: "A View from the Eye of the Storm"
Back to ABC Mini-Encyclopedia