Middle East

Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

Why “the West” needs to rethink its uncritical support of Israel

, by Dominik Bertram

Who's Democracy in the Middle East?

With the war in Lebanon finally ending in a cease-fire after almost five week of fighting, the so-called “West” should rethink some of its positions regarding policies in the Middle-East. In March of 2006, U.S. professors Mearsheimer and Walt raised a heated debate of the influence of the so-called “Israel-Lobby” in the U.S. They were widely attacked and (one might add obviously) accused of “anti-Semitism.” It is an undeniable fact however, that Israel, out of all countries in the Middle-East, continues to get support from the West, financial, as well as policy wise, when it comes to the United Nations or other international organizations.

This is not supposed to imply that the influence of this lobby is per se a bad thing; one should consider the implications of giving a “wild-card” to Israel.

Double standards!

It is interesting to note that whenever the US is deploying troops to a different country, either to support its own interests or because she claims to make the world safe for democracy, how it she accused by members of the EU, amongst others, of imperialism, ruthlessness, or war-mongering. Whenever Israel is engaging in similar actions, the EU either looks the other way or supports it.

Recent events

Before the invasion of Lebanon began one (later on a second) Israeli soldier was captured; obviously this was an aggressive act on part of the Hamas and Hezbollah. How two soldiers held hostage is a threat to the national security of a country that has a bigger and better equipped army than all its neighbors combined hardly makes sense (not to mention the up to 900 adolescents who are kept prisoners in Israel’s penitentiaries). What followed was a ruthless warfare against not only Palestinians in the Gaza strip, but as also against Hezbollah in Lebanon, who supports this terrorist group. Sadly the warfare was not only directed at these terrorists, it widened against civilians as the civil airport of Lebanon was destroyed (which made it even more difficult for western countries to evacuate its citizens), and in a recent attack, completely innocent by-standers were killed by “friendly fire”: 4 UN soldiers. How “friendly” this fire actually was is not clear at this point, since both the US and Israel are blocking an inquiry commission in the UN to look into that incident.

Unconditional support?!

One has to acknowledge that all this cannot be blamed on Israel because it got support since World War II, and got accustomed to a “do as you like”-policy by its allies in Europe as well as the USA. While this attitude was justified during the Cold War, up until 1993, it appears more then questionable whether this approach continues to be the best option to assure peace in the region. It seems highly hypocritical to promote democracy and as happened in the case of Hamas, not to live up to one’s own standard by being a “bad looser” and sanctioning the democratic elected party, by holding money from Palestine. It is true that Hamas is a terrorist organization; it is also true that they did not swear of their activities, but, in a liberal, pluralistic society within a legal frame, the burden of proof is always on the accuser. It is hard (even though not totally imaginable) to imagine, that Hamas would have kept on fighting Israel as it did when it was in the opposition. Especially because they were elected in a democratic process, they were accountable for their actions.

Israel’s allies gave Hamas an alibi for promoting their terrorist agenda by holding back their funds.

Israel’s allies gave Hamas an alibi for promoting their terrorist agenda by holding back their funds. This not only spurred sentiment within the Arab world, but more importantly might have slowed down the democratic process in the region. It became obvious to the population of these areas that the international community was biased and uninter-ested in establishing a “real” democracy. Instead they were in favor of a clearly pro-West administration with Abbas as its leader. This sort of democracy does not even work within countries, which have a long (US), or not so long (Germany) democratic history. Not only is Bush disliked in almost all parts of the world, the elections of 2005 in Germany made it clear how the country’s population was divided itself.

Conclusion

One would think that it is the responsibility of these countries, notably within the EU and the US, to be a leading example of a form of government that they promote throughout the world. George Washington was afraid that the “American Experiment” would eventually not work out. The same can be said for Germany after the Second World War, though both countries have turned out to be reasonable democracies.

Having said all this, it is not about supporting terrorist groups in favor over democracies, but maybe the world leaders need to take a step back, and look for one thing into history, as well as to question their unending support for Israel, who seems to part of the reason why there still is no peace in the Middle East.

Image:

- Mixed metaphors on a common theme, source: Flickr

Keywords

Your comments

  • On 1 September 2006 at 14:05, by Valery Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    I am sure that this topic is very interesting but why is this article published here ? what’s its connexion with the purpose of this webzine ? What’s the connexion with Europe ? or federalisme ?

  • On 1 September 2006 at 22:42, by David Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    Dear Vallery, I think, the article has got a relation to Europe and its stand. And, it is also a reaction on our articel “Hezbollah?Yes, they are a danger”, I suppose. It is interesting to hear a voice from the other side for me. Nevethless, I would like to add a few comments on the “Israel Lobby” work written by professors Mearsheimer and Walt, since I also had the opportunity to read a few parts of it.

    1. The professors write among others, that the Israeli citizenship is based on “Blood Kinship”. I think, everyone, who writes about Israel, should first of all get to know out of which ethnics its society is composed. There are at least 1.3 Millions Arab citizens of Israel, not mentioning the Druze population, that is getting larger every year, then Beduins, Cherkessians. The Arab language is officially accredited in the parliament. I would doubt, that these professors did not know about it. Just the fact that such important informations are being overseen implicates a lot. Considering the term “bloody kinship” - well, it does not fit much in a serious work, sounds rather as a watch-word, that should evoce a CERTAIN reaction by the readers.Emotional reaction, I would say.To analyze this error, the professors are obviously mixing the Israeli citizenship laws with its law of return.

    2.And, throughout the passages of the work, I was missing an openly outspoken account of Palestinian violence. This is a very fatall error and it takes away the seriousness of the work. Again, we can doubt the professors did not know about the context. So, why did they repeatedly oversee this? What was the aim behind it? One might well ask.

    3.The authors overlooked also Israel’s general acceptance of a two-state solution, that was offered from the time of Jitzhak Rabbin on. Again, I would not dare to call this manipulating the history, which is a very dangerous think.

    Questioning the reasons behind the USA support for Israel.Well, America is linked with Israel in a war against Islamist extremism, and this is being reinforced by Iranian statements about wiping Israel off the surface of the earth, and by the political advance of the Islamists of Hamas in Palestine.Americans see Israel as a democracy in a sea of autocracies-a democracy that has every right to use force to defend itself. I am wondering, that the author of the article is writing about the adolescents in the Israeli prisons, ignoring the fact that the suicide attackers and the Islamic militants in the region are from the significant part adolescent persons, because Hamas and other terrorist groups are using children as human shields (and think of militants as civilians). I also cannot understand, that the author is wiriting about the Israelis ruthless warfare: I suppose you have never heard about the fact, that terrorist organizations in the region are preventing the civilians to flee the “war areas”, that the militants are regullary shooting from the inhabited city-neighborhouds and mainly manipulating with the numbers of the killed persons. These organizations are in control of the “war-areas”, can shut off and on access to the hospitals, have copy of every journalist’s passport, and are able to fake funerals.(http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=32137) It is highly possible, that they are in control of what sort of information are coming out. To get some understanding, you can for example read this analysis:http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/08/corruption-of-media.html

    At the end, I would like to add a simple remark for the USA-Israel relations. If you follow the statement, that USA should not support Israel, the consequence would be, that the only democratical state in the region would be attacked within a short time, and that from many sides, as we all know very well. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah or Hamas would not miss the opportunity.

  • On 2 September 2006 at 10:26, by Emmanuel Vallens Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    I quite agree with this, but as Valéry said, this is mainly an article about the middle east situation, not about Europe and certainly not about federalism.

    But this is an opportunity to launch a debate. As I see it, one of the - many - roots of the Israeli-Pälestinian conflict lies in the control of water: ultimately, when we talk about two states, one of the stumbling blocks is the control of the Jordan and of underground water reserves. Now, maybe one of the ways forward, that may bring peace to the region (once or while the borders of Palestines and Israel have been finally settled), would be to do for water as we did in Europe with coal and steel. I could very well imagine a supranational Middle-East Water Community that would contral water resources and lay the foundations of a wider middle-east common market and, much later, who knows? of a middle East federation...

    The state of current relations between Arabs and Jews in the region makes it difficult to imagine, but hell! the French and Germans were hereditary ennemies, and now the best of friends. There’s nothing that can’t be changed, and Israelis more than anyone else should know it, because the faith in progress lies at the roots of Judaism.

  • On 4 September 2006 at 21:19, by Dominik Bertram Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    First off all, thank you, David, for pointing out that this topic has a lot to do with Europe, and with European Federalism in the larger sense as well (ESPD, and consequently with the constitution itself, concerning a common foreign policy), plus there are large communities of Jews as well as Muslims living among the Christian Majority in Europe, to whom this issue is of great importance. You are correct that is article was in part a response to your article, but in the sense that in Europe, as well as the USA, policy makers tend to be bias in favor of Israel’s interests. I do not claim that lobbies, and pushing an interest group of one agenda, is a bad thing, it only demonstrates, how the opposing side is not doing enough itself. In the case of the Middle East, however, one should be cautious for various reasons. I agree with Professors Walt and Mearsheimer in their response in the recent issue of “Foreign Policy” (I couldn’t find a link online, if anyone does, please post it here!), when they write “No State with hundreds of nuclear weapons and one of the world’s most powerful armies is going to be conquered” While there are countries who openly subscribe to erase Israel from the map, it is not very likely (if at all) to happen. I still cannot see how Israel’s national security is / was at stake when two of their soldiers were captured, and I still think that Mr. Olmert was in way maybe just looking for a reason to get back at Hamas.

    It appears as if David is in favor of ethnic profiling, when he writes that “he suicide attackers and the Islamic militants in the region are from the significant part adolescent persons” I would hope that once the identity of the person is verified, and it has been established that he or she is no threat, he would get released, and get the “benefit of doubt”. I believe that by keeping those groups looked up, more harm then good is done.

    About the “ruthless warfare”, I do not wish to imply, that Hezbollah (or Hamas), is an innocent organization, but if one looks at the numbers ( I will come to the manipulated media in the next paragraph), it clearly demonstrates the higher casualties on the Lebanese side.

    As for in how far one can trust the media, well that argument can also be made, the 1990’s film “Wag the dog”, or the news coverage of the smart bombs during the second war in the gulf comes to mind, I have to admit, that I did not follow the “Green Helmet” incident, but I salute the authors for putting so much of their time and energy in the research.

    Thank you Emmanuel, for your outlook, with which I agree, and as much as I hope for a reasonably soon solution to the problem, I do not know how soon it will be. With the constant support of the “West” in favor of Israel, it might be hard to convince all parties of a that it is indeed a “fair” deal.

  • On 5 September 2006 at 18:48, by ? Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    Dear Dominik. Yes, Israel surely had some military plans. It would be fatally irresponsible for the safety of its citizens, when there were no. Hezbollah fighters operated over a long period of time with total autonomy in the Southern Lebanon,and Lebanon has long resisted international pressure to disarm the group. A group, that is dedicated to eliminating the neighbour state of Lebanon . A group, that has regullary launched shells and fired rockets into the Northern Israel.

    In the past, the UNIFIL forces, did not interdict Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Instead, UNIFIL allowed Hezbollah to set up positions next to UNFIL units, in effect using UNIFIL as human shields against Israeli counterstrikes. One example for all: On October 7, 2000, Hezbollah terrorists entered Israel, attacked three Israeli soldiers on Mount Dov, and abducted them Lebanon.The kidnapping was witnessed by several dozen UNIFIL soldiers who stood idle. One of the soldier witnesses described the kidnapping: the terrorists set of an explosive which stunned the Israeli soldiers. Clad in UN uniforms, the terrorists called out, “Come, come, we’ll help you.” It later appeared that at least four of the UNIFIL “peacekeepers,” all from India, have received bribes from Hezbollah in order to assist the kidnapping by helping them get to the kidnapping spot and find the Israeli soldiers. Some of the bribery involved alcohol and Lebanese women. The UNIFIL was no assurance ad all.

    Dear Dominic, you can of course claim from the safety of your study room, that Israel’s response was not legitimate. Yet, it appears differently from the children rooms in Northern Israel.

    The civilian casualties on the Lebanese side were high, which is sad. But,as we write in the article “Hezbollah?Yes,they are a danger”, where we have mentioned the words of a U.N humanitarian chief,IDF,and numerous independent journalists,who documented the practics of Hezbollah, the Party of god was repeatedly preventning civilians from leaving the villages, and used them as human shields. The reasons for it were quite obvious, and I do not see yout point, when you try to ignore it. The first is the hope that it will dissuade the enemy from attacking you, and the second is the hope that if they do bomb you, many civilians will be killed, leading to a propaganda victory. Hezbollah knows that our media will only trumpet the civilan deaths, not that the cause are the terrorists using them as human shields.

    I also do not understand your point, when you write, that I am in favor of a ethnic profiling. I did not spoke against a certain ethnical group, but an ideology, and the people who are willing to kill in the name of it. I also do not agree with the collective guilt of the Sudetendeutschen, but I do not see any reason, why I should not mention, that they had procentualy the largest representation in the NSDAP from the whole Reich. Or, that the means, by which they were trying to achieve the sepparation, were not right. A mistification can simply arise, when you complain about the innocent adolescent, who are captured in Israeli prisons. When you write abou the Middle east, you should also take in account, that groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas are encouraging children to follow the example of committing suicide for the “cause.” Tell someone, who speaks Arabic, to translate you for example this site:http://www.al-fateh.net/ This has been discovered not long time ago, it is a website of Hamas,at first glance innocent. Yet, complete with cartoon characters and other pictures demonstrating the “heroism of Palestinian children,” this online magazine, titled Al-Fateh, promises “pages discussing Jihad (holy war), scientific pages, the best stories, not be found elsewhere, and unequalled tales of heroism.” The webzine’s editor hopes it will be read by “our beloved youth, the leaders of the future.”

    Take care, David.

  • On 5 September 2006 at 21:08, by Emmanuel Vallens Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    A very good answer, but I still do not see what this subject (as the debates here show very clearly) has anything to do with Europe and federalism...

  • On 6 September 2006 at 08:27, by Valéry Replying to: Who’s Democracy in the Middle East?

    I agree, you can virtually ind a connexion between any subject andthe European Union and federalism but if the article does not deal with this I do not see the point to publish it here.

    Obviously I am interested as anyone shoulod be about the current War on terrorism and how the civilized nations are going to destroy those organizations and the rogue states that support them, but it is simply outside of the scope of a JEF publication IMHO.

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