Youssef M. Ibrahim writes an extremely interesting meditation on the psychological situation in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Mr. Ibrahim, a former New York Times Middle East Correspondent and Wall Street Journal Energy Editor for 25 years, is a freelance writer based in New York City and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and a contributing editor of the NY Sun.
Arabs losing faith in ‘the cause’
By Youssef M. Ibrahim
Why is America trying to pour new money and more weapons into Palestinian Arab hands barely days after the Gaza debacle? It is an ill-considered policy, both premature and useless. The only sure result will be that warring gangs in the West Bank will use every new weapon to continue the mayhem and that the millions paid out won’t buy as much as a bottle of milk for Palestinian Arab civilians. Instead, the money will end up in the pockets and bank accounts of the same crooks who lost Gaza.
Indeed, why try to recreate a world that has just crumbled? America and Israel may want to wait for what may turn out to be a changing of the guard: Arab voices, both expert and popular, are rising in vociferous denunciations of the once sacrosanct Palestinian Arabs.
“It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank,” Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies noted in a sobering analysis published Tuesday in the New York Times. “The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.”
While Mr. Ajami’s commentary is poised, there is no such thing:
“Palestinians today need to be left without a shred of a doubt” as to what other Arabs think of them, a widely read opinion commentator for the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, thundered on Monday. “We need to tell them the only thing they have proven over 50 years is that they are adolescents who cannot and should not be trusted to run institutions of state or any other important matters.”
While it could be argued that the overwhelming public outrage in Saudi Arabia reflects resentment over the collapse of the much-vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah — which was personally brokered by King Abdullah earlier this year in Mecca — the anger expressed across the Muslim Arab world reflects deep embarrassment at the discredit Hamas has brought, in the name of Islam, through its savagery against Fatah.
For its part, the Egyptian press has become unhinged, spewing vile denunciations of what is universally known as “the cause” — support for the Palestinian Arabs — and describing it as dead. Egypt’s government pulled its embassy out of Gaza on Tuesday.
Kuwaitis, who have harbored contempt for Palestinian Arabs ever since they allied themselves with Saddam Hussein’s occupation in 1990-91, also dropped all restraint. “Palestinians are neither a modernized nor a civilized people,” Ahmad Al Bughdadi wrote Monday in Al Siyassah, an influential Kuwaiti daily. “They are not statesmen. If what happened in Gaza is what they do without a state, what then shall they do when they get one?”
If there could be an editorial coup de grace, it surely was delivered by no less than Abdelbari Atwan, undoubtedly the Palestinian Arabs most influential and respected journalist and a familiar face on both Western and Arab television.
Writing in the London-based Al Quds International, his painfully felt commentary, “Yes, We Have Lost the World’s Respect,” argued that “the cause” may have lost its legitimacy: “Many, myself among them, find it difficult to speak of Israeli crimes against our people in view of what we have now done,” Mr. Atwan wrote. “I never thought the day would come when we would see Palestinians throwing other Palestinians from the tops of buildings to their death, Palestinians attacking other Palestinians to tear their bodies with knives, Palestinians stripping others naked to drag them through the streets.”
Because when they did it to Israelis or other Arabs (e.g., in Lebanon), no one had a clue they’d do it to themselves?
All of which suggests letting this Arab storm run its course: It may be a purging of the Arab mindset that creates new realities and opportunities.
For instance, throughout the Arab Gulf region, starting with Al-Jazeera of Qatar and Al-Arabiya of Saudi Arabia, the press has long been controlled by Palestinian Arabs practiced in spewing anti-Western and anti-American propaganda. But the Gaza conundrum has left them stymied, opening space for “local sentiments,” which differ markedly.
Instead of pouring good money after bad in the western part of the Arab world, it may be wiser for America to help foster the revolutionary new thinking unfolding in its East — perhaps by nudging along a propaganda purge among friendly Arab regimes.
Bit of honor-shame analysis: Now, after being humiliated in front of the world, Arabs — even Palestinians — grow self-critical, end up saying things that (right-wing) Israelis have been saying for decades… like, “They’re not ready for statehood.” We, instead of saying, “At last! Now let’s get serious,” rush in to cover their shame. How stupid can we get? Very.
Another teaching moment will be lost because of the inane advice of well-intentioned fools.