Friday, March 29, 2013
Peace in our Time
There are people who believe that an apology for the deaths of nine people on the Mavi Marmara, in 2010 is completely undeserved.
This appears to have been proven correct, when following the apology by Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Erdogan told Turkish reporters “It was too early to talk about dropping the Mavi Marmara case against the Israeli soldiers, and that normalising diplomatic relations would come gradually.” (FrontPage magazine.com)
President Morsi of Egypt has uttered some horrific statements of religious bigotry. This isn’t, as some would hope, a kind of religious mania, or even insanity – when society as a whole displays behaviour we view as being aberrant it is not they who are viewed as misguided, but we, those of us who are 'out of step' with the consensus. Egypt is a country where female rape is becoming a national sport; sanctioned by the state to control its females. “A study by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights said that 62% of men admitted to harassing women, while 53% blame women for ‘bringing it on.’ Nor is this phenomenon limited to Egyptian women: while 83% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment, so have 98% of foreign female visitors.” (Middle East Forum) Egypt gave the world the Muslim Brotherhood, the institution that has spread across the globe as a cross between the Institution of the Inquisition and the Knights Templar. It is noteworthy that in a country without Jews to blame, they blame Christianity for the failure of the Arab Spring.
President Erdogan has been known to defend Jews against Turkish jingoism and xenophobia but he is also a demagogue and ultimately his loyalty is firstly towards his faith and second to his nation. His veneer of civilisation is a pragmatic response to how he perceives other countries will react to his behaviour. In 2012 he used chemical weapons (as reported in the German Press but no where else at the time), against the Kurds. His one fear is for the failure of his Islamist revolution; ethical considerations are entirely absent from his behaviour. Statements made by Erdogan, his Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu and President Morsi of Egypt reflects the written word of primitive societies, bestial worshippers of chaos and war. These are all rational, highly intelligent men so their carefully chosen words of incitement mark them out as sinister figures whose corrupted souls are steeped in the stagnant and foul smelling prejudice of the dark ages of history. The danger is that with 7th Century attitude they posses 21st Century weapons.
Neither Egypt nor Turkey are societies that are entirely dedicated to obscurantism and bigotry but neither Egyptian Fundamentalism nor Turkish neo-Ottoman imperialism are political ideologies that are tolerant of diversity. The West cannot ignore nor trust either. If containment contributed to the fall of Communism then we must question why we have not actively encouraged the containment of Turkey and Egypt (and Iran.)
There is a psychology of confidence that Islam and especially Arab society engenders that we must not ignore. Even if we do not understand the cultural antipathy that both of them holds towards us (and the Occident), we cannot ever ignore their consequent contemptuous hope concerning our ultimate demise, in particular, when it manifests as openly expressed derision.
Sticks and stones will break your bones but with words begin the slaughter.
Most of the Near-East was created by Britain and France after the First World War. The San Remo Conference in 1920 created a legal basis for carving up the defunct Ottoman empire into artificial states. Those states were always dysfunctional and could only ever be ruled by force of arms and dictatorship. It is possible that what we are now living through is the unravelling of the artificial mess that Europe created. The dismemberment of the Arab world may be the only hope the world has, for peace.
A nation starts the way it intends to continue. It is important that we remember this.
Societies are formed over centuries, not decades and certainly, not over electoral cycles. America’s Constitution is 225 years old. It may have taken almost that long for true equality to exist, perhaps it remains a work in progress. There will be many people who by denying that it exists mean to undermine it. Nevertheless without the visionary founding fathers, the Civil War of the 19th Century and the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century may not have had a moral basis.
Zionism has an equally idealised foundation. Zionism created The Declaration of Independence which forms the inspiration behind Israel’s Basic laws. It is worthwhile to repeat part of that founding Declaration:
“The State of Israel will ….be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…”
A nation begins as it intends to continue. Israel has suffered 65 years of warfare, 65 years has it been threatened with annihilation and yes it remains militarily, the most powerful nation state in the Near-East. But the military threat remains and it has created, by necessity, a militant nation which must continuously remain vigilant against the threats to democracy and civil liberties that a militant society will encourage as a by-product of its survival in a hostile environment.
It is something that has skewered Israeli political as well as moral thinking. In Israel full equality exists in law but not in practice, just as it does not exist in practice in any other country. There exists full integration in most facets of Israeli life with one exception – and that is religious communities of all faiths. All the faith communities remain segregated and they choose to remain so – it is Israel's greatest challenge and its most difficult battle yet to be fought – It remains the most significant impediment to Israeli tolerance within national life.
The barriers that exist are equally entrenched throughout all the religious communities in displaying universal opposition to religious assimilation.
One of the biggest barriers is that Judaism has no outgoing contemporary experience of proselytising. Non-Jewish minorities in Israel have aggressive and long established missionary activities and if they are not now engaged in such activities it is because delegitimisation is another form of denial that works to undermine the essential equality of Israel’s majority Jewish population. Prejudice keeps disparate religious communities apart as each safeguard's its own theological or ideological position and is a wholly negative response that is intended to prevent people from seeking ways to live alongside of each other, peacefully; to integrate or even to assimilate a new national identity.
European and Arab (Mizrahi) Jews have a greater than 50 per cent rate of intermarriage, but Arab and Jew? This must be the area of greatest attention in the 21st Century.
Egypt and Turkey lead traditional, racist societies. Any tolerance they feign has been historically dependent on a strictly enforced Islamic hierarchy and an institutionalised hierarchic inferiority imposed on their minority populations. It is not that their societies have become more bigoted. Severe economic problems combined with well organised, inherently violent religious groups (the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists) have contributed towards a consequent lack of physical security. These were already weak and dysfunctional societies.
Morsi and Erdogan both proudly display their racism and their ethnic hatred as essential elements of their national identities. No excuse, diplomatically delivered, can provide a defence for the original sin of Turkish and Egyptian national endeavours.
Prime Minister Netanyahu would be wise to remember this point when he negotiates with one of our existential enemies.
You really do start as you intend to continue.
Americans and Israelis seem to have forgotten that point.