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Map of the Middle East

Prof. Bernard Lewis, who was a leading authority on Islam and the Middle East, shed light on a cardinal aspect of the frustrating, complicated and inconvenient reality of the Middle East: “If the fighters in the war for Islam are fighting for God, it follows that their opponents are fighting against God…. In the classical Islamic view, the world is divided into two: the House of Islam… and the House of Unbelief, which it is the duty of Muslims ultimately to bring to Islam…. The struggle between these rival systems has now lasted for some 14 centuries…. America has become the archenemy, the incarnation of evil, the diabolic opponent of all that is good… of Islam….”*Western conventional wisdom (WCW) has been based on the assumptions that Middle East violence is despair-driven; that radical Middle East dictators can be induced to subordinate their radical ideologies to dramatic financial benefits (“money talks”); and that significant gestures and concessions could motivate rogue Middle East leaders to embrace peaceful coexistence, compliance with agreements, adoption of human rights and democracy, to depart from fanatic ideologies, and to join the “multilateral/cosmopolitan club.”*In order to advance its well-intentioned assumptions, Western conventional wisdom has consistently overlooked the 1,400-year-old shifty, unpredictable, violent, totalitarian, intolerant, anti-“infidel” (Islam vs. the West), anti-“apostate” (Shiite vs. Sunni), fragmented, volcanic and frustrating nature of Middle East (intra-Arab and intra-Moslem) reality. It has also overlooked the supremacy of fanatical ideologies over financial benefits in shaping the policy of Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Moslem Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as reflected in their (K-12) school curriculum, mosque sermons and constitutions/charters.*Western appeasement of Shiite, Sunni and Palestinian terrorism has ignored the well-documented fact, that terrorists bite the hands that feed them, as demonstrated by the Mujahideen (who were assisted by the US to drive the USSR out of Afghanistan and proceeded to carry out 9/11), Iran’s Ayatollahs (who were critically assisted by the US to topple the Shah of Iran and proceeded to become the lead  anti-US terrorist and drug trafficker) and the Palestinian leadership (which was hosted by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait and proceeded to subvert and terrorize them).*In defiance of Western conventional wisdom, the inherent hostility toward the “infidel” West, and especially “the Great American Satan,” has been a dominant feature of fundamental Arab and Islamic education, culture, and politics, fomenting epicenters of global anti-US terrorism.*Notwithstanding Western conventional wisdom-driven gestures, Islamic terrorism has haunted the US since the Barbary pirates in the beginning of the 19th century, irrespective of US policy, and independent of the identity of the US President. Thus, it afflicted the US during Presidents Trump (e.g., the Hudson River Park terrorism murdering 8), Obama (e.g., the Orlando terrorism murdering 49), G.W. Bush (9/11 murdering 2,977), Clinton (e.g., the car-bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania murdering 300), Reagan (e.g., the blowing-up of PanAm-103 murdering 257), etc.*9/11 underscored the determination of Islamic terror regimes to engage the US in their battle to bring the “infidel” West to submission, irrespective of the US’ intent to disengage from Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East at-large. These rogue regimes view the US’ disengagement, isolationism and gestures as symptoms of Western battle-fatigue and the erosion of a posture of deterrence, which intensifies terrorism and shifts the battle gradually to the US mainland (e.g., Iran’s and Hezbollah’s sleeper cells in the US and collaboration with Latin American terror organizations and drug cartels).*Islamic terrorism is not driven by despair, but rather by the imperialistic vision of Islam as the only legitimate religion, divinely-ordained to bring “apostates” and “infidels” – especially the US – to submission, peacefully or militarily.*The following examples demonstrate the unbridgeable gap between Western conventional wisdom (WCW) and Middle East reality:<While WCW believes in the separation of state and church and secular policy making, Islam believes in the dominance of religion in domestic and foreign policy-making, civic life, justice, law and order, education, culture, peace, war and geo-strategy.<While WCW is preoccupied with the present and the future, the Middle East is preoccupied with the past 1,400 years as a base for future undertaking. For instance, WCW shapes its positive attitude toward the proposed Palestinian state according to future, speculative scenarios (e.g., peaceful coexistence), but the Arabs shape their indifferent-to-negative attitude toward the proposed Palestinian state according to the subversive and terroristic Palestinian track record in the intra-Arab sphere.<While WCW underscores give-and-take, Islam is determined to bring the adversary/enemy (especially the “apostate” and “infidel”) to submission, peacefully or militarily, employing dissimulation, in order to mislead naïve opponents.<While WCW refers to the Arab-Israeli conflict as “the Middle East conflict,” 11 million Muslims have been killed since 1948, of which 35,000 – 0.3% – were related to Arab-Israel wars.<While WCW assumes that the Palestinian issue is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a crown-jewel of Arab policy makers and a core cause of Middle East turbulence, no Arab-Israeli war was every triggered by the Palestinian issue.  No Arab country has ever flexed a military muscle, or a substantial financial muscle on behalf of the Palestinians.  No Israel-Palestinian war has ever expanded into a regional war, and no major Middle East turbulence has ever erupted due to the Palestinian issue.<While WCW has focused on the Arab talk, which embraces the proposed Palestinian state, the Arab walk refrains from advancing the cause of a Palestinian state. It is consistent with Aa dominant Middle East motto: on words one does not pay custom.<While WCW assumes that ceasefire agreements advance the cause of peace, and peace accords end hostilities and the state of war, Islam considers ceasefires (especially with “infidels”) as an opportunity to regroup for the next phase of a perpetual war until submission of the enemy.  Peace accords are viewed (especially with “infidels”) as temporary ceasefires, serving the cause of the Moslem party, to be abrogated upon amassing sufficient power to bring adversaries to submission.*The self-destructive nature of WCW (e.g., the 45-year-old diplomatic option toward Iran in defiance of Iran’s rogue track record) is exposed by the march of Middle East facts.*The attempt to subordinate Middle East reality to WCW, was compared by Prof. Elie Kedourie – who was a leading historian of the Middle East – to trying to make water run uphill.


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Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.