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The Gates of Jerusalem

Israel is a sideline in a regional struggle by fractured populations who are divided by ethnicity and religion, language and natural resources, to unite into a single commonality.
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Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

The endless wars with Israel are not really about the Jewish State. Nor are the wars about the Arabs living in the territories that Israel lost in 1948 to Jordan and Egypt and recaptured from them in 1967. The rest of the Muslim world cares no more about them than Hitler cared about the Sudeten Germans or Japan really believed in the rights of Chinese and Koreans.

Israel is a sideline in a regional struggle by fractured populations who are divided by ethnicity and religion, language and natural resources, to unite into a single commonality. It is a natural target because its population consists of a people who are members of a different religious and ethnic group than the dominant religious and ethnic groups of the region.

Unlike the Persians and Turks, the Jews are not Muslims, not even Shiites, and unlike the Christian Arabs, the Jews are not even of the same ethnicity as the regional majority. Jews are neither Muslims nor Arabs and that makes them unique and alien in a region where every country is dominated by either an Arab or Muslim identity. Or both.

To the Arab Nationalist, the Persian and Turk is an alien, but the Christian Arab is a brother. To the Islamist, the Christian Arab is a Dhimmi or an infidel, but the Turk is a brother in faith. But to both, the Jew and the Jewish State are an alien presence in the region that must be removed for their own version of regional unity to flourish.

The Post-Colonial contest in the Middle East has been over how to unite the fractured ethnic minorities and the religious splits together into a single region. What do the tribal oil monarchies have in common with the former colonies ruled by military strongmen? What do any of them have in common with the Persians and the Turks?

Uniting behind something is difficult, as even the Islamists must admit. Islam split over issues of succession not too long after Mohammed’s death. But uniting against something is fairly easy. The Jews are the most alien of all the groups in the region. Unable to unite on love, the Middle East unites on hate and hating Israel gives everyone in the region a feeling of having something in common.

Israel is however only a sideline in the larger struggle between Islamists and Nationalists, Sunnis and Shiites, in a region struggling to define itself around the supremacy of a single defining identity, rather than a harmony between different identities.

Terrorism against Israel is not a continuous enduring phenomenon. The enemies that Israel faced were defined by the political and religious trends of the region, from an early PLO committed to fighting to incorporate Israel into a Greater Syria  to the latter day Hamas which is fighting for its own Islamist superstate in the form of the Caliphate.

Rather than an ongoing resistance by an oppressed people, the terrorists have actually been defined by ideological opportunism.

To the Arab Nationalists, it was nationalism that defined a nation and their terrorists constructed a mythical Palestinian identity to indoctrinate generations into becoming eager soldiers in the endless war being promoted by their Arab Nationalist backers in Egypt and Syria. And so Palestinian nationalism was born, not at all troubled by the lack of any actual national history to go with all the flags and bloody poems about dying for a homeland that had never existed and whose population consisted of economic migrants from Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

To the Islamists, nationalism is at best suspect and at worst, idolatrous. Hamas has never been able to disavow Palestinian nationalism, but its leaders waver between invoking the Palestinian nation and tossing it aside for their true goal of a regional Islamist unity.

The Arab Nationalists needed a national history and identity to lay claim to Israel. The Islamists has no need for such trinkets. To the Islamist, Israel is a Muslim possession by right of conquest. Once Muslims capture a place, whether it is Spain or Israel, it becomes Muslim land in perpetuity. There is no need for a national mythology linking a people to a specific place to allow a Muslim to lay claim to a territory that was once ruled by Muslims.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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