By Michael Sussman, Israel Hayom—
The Arabic concept of balance (“mu-wazana”) plays a critical role in virtually every aspect of life in the Arab world.
Unlike its Western version – “keeping up with the Joneses” – mu-wazana does not have a negative connotation. Rather than depicting the need to amass material goods to match the status or worth of one’s neighbors, mu-wazana means maintaining balance with other tribes or nations. In the Middle East, this is considered not only a positive, natural phenomenon but a matter of survival.
The US-brokered Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, announced by President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, is especially relevant in this context. Its key genius lies in the way that it plays into the culture of mu-wazana. Indeed, to restore and maintain this type of balance, the rest of the Gulf States – and other Arab countries – will wish to follow Abu Dhabi’s lead.
More importantly, they will not want the UAE to be the sole beneficiary of Israeli hi-tech, defense systems and agricultural advancements – or the only one among them with an embassy in the Jewish state.
The flip side in Arab culture – revealed in folklore that dates back to the period prior to the advent of Islam in the seventh century, when nomads would sing to the hoofbeats of their camels as they trekked through the desert – is revealed in a widely quoted Bedouin proverb: “I am against my brother; my brother and I are against my cousin; my cousin and I are against the stranger.”
This apothegm sums up the importance of competition between and among groups, sub-tribes and individuals. In such a hierarchy, without balance, one person’s or group’s gain is the other’s loss.
This concept of balance derives from the nomadic “way of the desert,” when it was common for tribes to fight over scarce resources, including water. Tribal raids were common, and reciprocity or proportionality of war did not exist. A weak tribe raided by a stronger one, therefore, would be enslaved, taken over or obliterated. It was thus advantageous for a tribe to have more people and better weapons, for example, to safeguard its survival.
Tribal competition in the Middle East is not simply a thing of the past, however. In today’s popular Arab culture, even television shows, such as soap operas, tell tribal stories. Museums in the Gulf display family trees of their countries’ leaders and powerful tribes. Continue Reading….