Why the Arab World is a Failure: Honor-Shame and the Iraqi-Israeli Disconnection

Recently an Iraqi parliamentarian came to Israel to attend the annual conference on Counter-terrorism held at Herzliya. Upon return, his fellow legislators voted unanimously to strip him of his immunity and some now want to execute him because of his deed. It’s hard not to view such a response as one more nail in the coffin of the Arab world’s ability to join the modern world. And the reason for this violent (and self-defeating) response? Honor!

Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the “enemy” state.

It is at once pathetic, and highly indicative of the profound mental and cultural resistance that permeates the Arab world to normalizing relations and getting on with the business of establishing a civil society.

Sep 22, 2008 16:58
Iraq may execute MP for Israel visit

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First his two sons were murdered. Now he faces prosecution. The reason for Mithal al-Alusi’s troubles? Visiting Israel and advocating peace with the Jewish state – something Iraq’s leaders refuse to consider.

The Iraqi is at the center of a political storm after his fellow lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to strip him of his immunity and allow his prosecution for visiting Israel – a crime punishable by death under a 1950s-era law. Such a fate is unlikely for al-Alusi, though he may lose his party’s sole seat in parliament.

Because he had visited Israel, many Iraqis assume the maverick legislator was the real target of the assassins who killed his sons in 2005 while he escaped unharmed.

Now he is in trouble for again visiting Israel and attending a conference a week ago at the International Institute for Counterterrorism.

“He wasn’t set to speak, but he was in the audience and conversed with a lecturer on a panel about insurgency and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel,” said conference organizer Eitan Azani. “We didn’t invite him. He came on his own initiative.”

Al-Alusi has a German passport, allowing him to travel without visa restrictions imposed on other Iraqis. Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the “enemy” state.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the reaction to al-Arusi’s visit “very distressing” and said it was sad this was the response to someone who merely visited Israel and was interested in a dialogue with it.

“It is very unfortunate that the reaction was so violent and aggressive,” he said. “It adds nothing.”

Palmor said Israel was appreciative of al-Alusi’s “courage,” and that the reactions to his visit were an example of the extremism that was plaguing that country and leading to so much bloodshed there.

The uproar shows how far Iraq has moved from the early US goal of creating a democracy that would make peace with Israel and remove a critical force from the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The US Embassy declined comment. “It is an issue for the Iraqi parliament, not the US Mission to Iraq,” said spokesman Armand Cucciniello.

There’s backbone.

“What has happened was a catastrophe for democracy,” Al-Alusi told The Associated Press in an interview in his Baghdad home. “Within an hour’s time, the parliament became the policeman, the investigator, the judge, the government and the law. It was a sham trial.”

Al-Alusi said he went to Israel to seek international support for Iraq as it struggles against terrorism, and insisted that the outcry reflected Iranian meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs – an accusation often leveled by Sunnis like himself against Iraq’s mostly Shi’ite neighbor.

“Iran is behind Hamas and Hizbullah and many other terrorist organizations. Israelis are suffering like me, like my people. So we need to be together,” he said. “Peace will have more of a chance.”

Iraq sent troops to three Arab wars against Israel, and fired Scud missiles at it in the 1991 Gulf War. It remains technically at war with the Jewish state. Iraq’s once-thriving Jewish community has shriveled to just a few people, most having fled after Israel was established in 1948.

4 Responses to Why the Arab World is a Failure: Honor-Shame and the Iraqi-Israeli Disconnection

  1. Lorenz Gude says:

    This is a very discouraging development. I can only wonder at why Al_Alusi would take the chance of making such a trip. I wouldn’t have thought it inadvisable simply because it invites the very retaliation that is occurring. Still, the reaction reveals the absolute priority of honor shame – lest anyone including myself get optimistic about Iraq and the Middle East in general.

  2. Kate J says:

    I am wondering what the breakdown of the debate on this was. It’s horrifying that it is even being considered — however unsurprising. I am curious if there were dissenters, if there is the development of a “middle ground” in Iraq on issues like this. It is hard to fathom the idea of moderation between the poles of wishing for genocide and mere tolerance of “infidels” in Israel, but I suppose if such a thing does exist that is a sign of progress?

    I remember in college a fellow student from Saudi Arabia explaining how his father could have him killed for being gay. He seemed amused at my disbelief. Unfortunately, these examples have ceased to surprise me…

  3. Will THAT pull some scales off some peoples’ eyes?

    What the hell are we doing in Iraq and Afghanistan???

    It was OK as long as we are helping them to DESTROY their own infrastructures…but we are now spending trillions helping our worst enemy, whose only purpose is to kill us all and enslave our children as sex slaves…

    Can’t you read your history? Hundred of millions have been dragged in just such a miserable fate in
    Europe by the Barbary slavers!!! Forget and be
    condemned to re-live the nightmare…there
    is already hundred of terror training camps
    right here in the USA and Canada.

    They already control Eurosthan…

    GET THE TROOPS OUT!!! And start killing the toxic muzz
    sewer rats right HERE in our own backyard!!!

  4. Lynne T says:


    There are a few courageous Muslims out there who are willing to put their lives on the line, by defying the party line. The late editor of US-based Pakistan Today and another newspaper editor from Bangladesh currently facing the death penalty are two such examples. (Wish I could give you their names, but my memory is failing me at the moment.)

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