Obama has embraced a myth about Israel
I am reluctant to criticize Barack Obama, for whom I will enthusiastically vote in November. He's already taking a beating from the same sleazy Republican attack machine that defeated John Kerry four years ago.
But Obama's recent remarks about the Middle East show that he has foolishly bought into the myth that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict is the key to solving all the Middle East's problems.
Obama is not alone, of course, in embracing the simplistic idea that if only Israel and the Palestinians would settle their decades-long dispute, the violence and political ferment that characterize the Muslim world would cease.
For generations, both left-wingers and arch-conservatives hostile to Israel's very existence have been perpetuating the myth of the linkage between the Palestine issue and peace in the Middle East. Such luminaries as Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski have given the argument some respectability.
Obama's belief in the centrality of the Israel-Palestine dispute was evidently reinforced during his recent Middle East tour when he met Jordan's King Abdullah. Obama said that the king, who he called a "savvy analyst of the region," told him that "we've got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that [all the Middle East issues] are connected."
King Abdullah is the same "savvy analyst" who, when asked in a CNN interview the day after 9/11, whether the attacks would have happened if the Israelis and Palestinians had reached a peace agreement at Camp David two years before, had this to say:
"I don't believe so, because I think that if you had solved the problems of the Middle East, and obviously the core issue is that between the Israelis and Palestinians, I doubt whether [the attacks]would have taken place."
The king conveniently disregarded the factors that probably provoked the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin-Laden's hysteria about the presence of U.S. troops in his native Saudi Arabia, his grievances against the Saudi regime, and his disgust with what he regards as the corruption of Western culture. Israel did not appear on his agenda until two years after 9/11, apparently to gain more widespread support in the Muslim world for his al-Qaeda organization.
The current violence and political turbulence in the Muslim world demonstrate how absurd the linkage myth is.
Sunni and Shiite Muslims are slaughtering each other in Iraq. Arab Muslims are killing black Muslims in Sudan. Anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon--who are as anti-Israel as the pro-Syrian politicians--are being assassinated by Syria. Muslim Arabs and Muslim Turks are killing Muslim Kurds. Taliban Muslims are battling non-Taliban Muslims in Afghanistan. Somalia, a Muslim country, is in chaos.
How is the Israel-Palestine issue connected to this horrific scene?
It may be impolitic to note, but the root cause of all these conflicts, including the one between Israelis and Palestinians, may reflect a streak in Muslim culture that considers violence and threats of violence as a legitimate means to resolve disputes.
I hope that Barack Obama who, ironically, has been falsely called a Muslim himself, will consider the validity of this theory and that he will recognize that it is a myth that Israel is linked to all the violence and political ferment that besets the Middle East.