By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel initiative”

 

1. In the pursuit of peace, alliances and interests, western policy-makers tend to sacrifice perplexing Middle East reality on the altar of oversimplification and wishful-thinking, which has fueled regional fires.

2. According to the Lebanese-born Prof. Fouad Ajami, former Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University (The Arab Predicament, Cambridge University Press, 1990): Middle East reality constitutes “a chronicle of illusions, despair and politics repeatedly degenerating into bloodletting.”

3. Iraqi-born Prof. Eli Kedourie, London School of Economics, one of the leading Middle East historians, wrote in Islam in the Modern World (Mansell publishing, 1980): “Political terrorism in the Muslim and Arab world has a somewhat old history…which would not be easy to eradicate from the world of Islam.”

4. Egyptian-born Prof. P. J. Vatikiotis, from the London University School of Oriental and African Studies, an icon of Middle East history, wrote in Arab and Regional Politics in the Middle East (Croom and Helm, 1984): “The use of terrorism by [Arab] rulers…has been for domestic, regional and international political purposes…. There is an unbridgeable gap between them and all other social and political arrangements… The dichotomy between the Islamic and all other systems of earthly government and order is clear, sharp and permanent; it is also hostile.”

5. The assumption that the Arab Tsunami is a temporary mishap, which could be cured by a constitutional panacea, is detached from Middle East reality. Most of the Arab rage has been directed toward Arabs, and was introduced long before the 2010 eruption of the current Arab Tsunami.

6. Two million Sudanese were killed, and 4 million displaced, during the 1983-2011 genocidal civil war; the West Pakistani massacres in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) totaled 1.25 million in 1971; 200,000 deaths in Algeria’s civil war in 1991-2006; one million deaths in the Iran-Iraq war; 300,000 Muslim [Shia and Kurdish] killed by Saddam Hussein; 200,000 Lebanese were killed in internal violence during the 1970s and 1980s; 80,000 Iranians killed during the Islamic revolution; 25,000 deaths in Jordan during the 1970-71; 20,000 killed in 1982 by Hafiz Assad in Hama. The World Health Organization’s estimate of Osama bin Laden’s carnage in Iraq was 150,000.

7. Some 11 million Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, (0.3 percent) died during the Arab wars against Israel, or one out of every 315 fatalities; and public executions and decapitations are regularly held in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

8. The deep roots of contemporary Mid-East Islamic violence are highlighted by Prof. Efraim Karsh, Head of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at London’s King’s College, editor of the Middle East Quarterly and author of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2006): “In the long history of the Islamic empire, the wide gap between delusions of grandeur and the forces of localism would be bridged time and again by force of arms, making violence a key element of the Islamic political culture…. The result was a legacy of oppressive violence that has haunted the Middle East [from the seventh century] into the 21st century….”

9. A key lesson for US policy-makers was delivered by Prof. P.J. Vatikiotis (ibid): “American choices must be made on the assumption that what the Arabs want or desire is not always – if ever – what Americans desire; in fact, the two desires may be diametrically opposed and radically different.”

10. Western interests and the pursuit of peace would be dramatically enhanced, should Western policy-makers adhere to Middle East reality and heed the teachings of Professors Ajami, Karsh, Vatikiotis and Kedourie, learning from history by avoiding – rather than by repeating – costly errors.