A 100-year-old joke (give or take) describes Polish leader Martial Józef Piłsudski appearing before the victorious allies after World War I to appeal for his country’s independence. As an incentive, the future Polish president warns the committee: “If you don’t grant us independence, then all the Poles will get drunk and go out and kill many Jews.” So the committee chair asks: “And what will happen should we grant you independence?”
“Oh, that’s simple,” answers Piłsudski, “In that case all the Poles will get drunk and go out and kill many Jews.”
I couldn’t help recalling this old joke – borne by a reality of an eastern European culture where Jew hatred and the occasional pogrom were just part of what you did – when going over the threats (disguised as warnings) from across the Arab world and Europe (and Ha’aretz) about how, should President Trump on Wednesday night recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – a full 70 years after it had been declared as such – the streets of the Middle East will burn.
PLO Executive Committee Member and the result of Fatah’s horribly failed lab experiment to create an Arab Golda Meir, Hanan Ashrawi, stated on Tuesday: “President Trump seems to be hell-bent on annihilating the chances of peace and destroying the stability and security of the entire region and beyond, provoking violence and playing into the hands of extremists and terrorists around the world.”
Right or wrong, you’d expect Ashrawi to add a note to her angry constituents not to explode in violence and show instead the mature reaction of an Arab public ready for statehood.
Didn’t happen. Ashrawi dealt with Arab violence as a force of nature, something Arabs do when you provoke them, the tantrum-throwing children of the planet and that’s that, much like the Poles a hundred years ago.
The PA envoy to the UK Manuel Hassassian told the BBC: “If [Trump] says what he is intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two state solution […] He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims [and] hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel.”
Think about it – how much fear is there out there among world Muslims that the fact that an American president recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – without specifying, according to the White House, whether he also plans to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State some day, and without rejecting the two-state solution – becomes a declaration of war on Islam?
Like that hollowed band, Spinal Tap, Arab sound-systems go all the way up to 11, and stay at 11. It must be the result of very deep fears in the Arab psyche, a dark and unspoken insecurity expressed in extreme fashion. Do Muslims believe in the coming of the Jewish messiah more than Jews do? Is it in their minds a domino effect, whereby Jerusalem is recognized as Israel’s capital, to be followed by the inevitable destruction of the al-Aksa shrine and the descending Third Jewish Temple?
Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, rebuked President Trump this week: “It is unfortunate that some are insisting on carrying out this step without any regard to the dangers it carries to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world. […] Nothing justifies this act… It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence.”
Again, not even a feeble attempt to suggest that fanaticism and violence may not be the choice reactions, and that Arabs everywhere should express their anger like most civilized people, by writing letters to the editor and using colorful expletives in their podcasts.
I looked, believe me, and could not find a single Arab voice – or non-Arab voice for that matter – that urged a peaceful and restrained response to what they consider a wrong policy move on the part of the US president. Everyone accepts the law of nature which states that when you offend the sensibilities of an Arab, he will kill you.
Ha’aretz warned on Wednesday that “Trump’s decision is likely to destroy the faint hopes of a breakthrough in the peace process. It could ignite a local and regional conflagration that would undermine American and Israeli interests in the Middle East. It gives Iran a pretext to incite Arab public opinion against its leaders. It could lead to a wave of violence that would shake the foundations of the PA, which has invested in nurturing its relations with Trump. And it could cost lives, perhaps many.”
It’s an astute analysis, every single point in it could happen. What’s missing is even the faintest of notions of what the Palestinian Authority and Arab heads of state could do to quell the gushing violence of the Arab streets. Ha’aretz may not be as invested in a violent Arab response to the recognition of Jerusalem as Hanan Ashrawi is – but it wouldn’t occur to its writers in a million years to suggest that sane human beings do not react with unrestrained violence to political provocation.
Michael Gerson, who was GW Bush’s speechwriter, is credited with his boss’s insightful phrase about “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Yes, Virginia, the leaders who caution about explosive extremism and violent riots across the Middle East in response to President Trump’s announcement Wednesday are filled with contempt for the Arab masses, and are convinced these masses are beyond civilizing.