Scapegoating Israel for the Arab World's Problems (February 2, 2011)

February 2, 2011



Scapegoating Israel for the Arab World’s Problems




Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber,

We all knew this was in the offing. It was only a matter of time before Israel was blamed for the current unrest developing in the Arab world. Israel has, time and again, been used as a weapon of mass distraction. A red herring to deflect media attention away from the lack of democracy, fundamental freedoms, and human rights in the region. A scapegoat for despotic and corrupt regimes who proffer tyranny and nepotism over jobs, food, and education.

So it’s no surprise that the Toronto Star gave a pundit a platform to perpetuate the myth that Israel is the root cause of the current Mideast instability. Writing in the Star’s commentary pages yesterday, John Bell, director of the Middle East Program at the Toledo International Centre for Peace, argued that the “Arab rallying cry is (all about): ‘dignity!'” and by dignity, what he really meant was… all about Israel. According to Bell:

“Tunisia has fallen, Egypt is on the verge, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria are feeling the tremors. Many commentators have mentioned that these revolutions are about bread, freedom and justice, and they also frequently mention “dignity.”

“… Many Arab leaders… are perceived as, intentionally or not, complicit in Israeli occupation, weak in standing up to Israeli actions – thereby striking another blow at the Arab need for dignity.

This reality explains the popularity of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, who through his words and war machine against Israel provides Arabs with the dignity that most of their leaders have failed to deliver. This kind of “outward” dignity regarding an enemy trumps the need for internal dignity because, in the Arab world, the needs of the group supersede those of the individual…”

Bell would also have you believe that the “Street revolution” in Egypt, the “Jasmine revolution” in Tunisia, and the waves of demonstrations sweeping throughout Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria are “rallying cries” to procure a “Dignity revolution” to remedy “Israeli occupation” and “Israeli oppression” of the Palestinians. According to Bell:

If Israel had any foresight regarding the future of the region, it would rush to create a Palestinian state along durable and fair lines (i.e. not interim, not partial and not in denial of history) and so avoid decades of future confrontation based on this profound Arab need. Although not a sure bet, it is the best one available. The status quo is a guarantee of conflict.”

“By doing so, it would nip in the bud a natural cause of Arab revolt and conflict against Israel for decades to come.”

But as the Jerusalem Post’s Herb Kenion points out, the recent unrest in Arab world is not about Israel, observing that “Israel and the Palestinians were simply not on the agenda.” According to Kenion:

“Remove that source of antagonism, this argument ran, move Israel out of the West Bank, stop building a new apartment complex in Gilo, and stability would be much easier to bring to the region…”

“Why? Because Middle East instability is not about us – it is about them. It is about Arab unemployment, and Arab poverty, and Arab despair of a better future.

One of the axioms repeated ad nauseum over the years by pundits around the world is that Arab despair breeds the radicalism that breeds the terrorism, and that the source of that despair is the Palestinian issue. Take that issue away and there will be far less despair, and thus far less terrorism. Hogwash.

True, there is hopelessness in the Arab world – but the source is not the Arab masses concern about the Palestinians; the source is the Arab masses concern about their own lives, their own unemployment and their own lack of freedoms. Fix that and you get stability; ignore that, and you get revolution.”

The New York Post’s John Podhoretz perceptively summed up the matter by noting that the “Arab revolt is not (and has never been) about Palestine.” According to Podhoretz: “Cure the Israeli-Palestinian problem, they tell us, and you cure regional instability. But the problem for the overwhelming majority of countries in the Middle East hasn’t been instability. The problem has, rather, been an excess of stability — the result of sclerotic regimes of preposterously long duration.”

How You Can Make a Difference:

Dignity is a term which signifies that an individual or a state has an innate right to respect and ethical treatment. Only for John Bell Israel isn’t deserving of dignity; only opprobrium, censure, and unfair treatment.

Send your considered comments to the Toronto Star at and please refer to John Bell’s op-ed entitled “Arab rallying cry is: ‘dignity!'”

View this Article Online and Discuss on Headlines and Deadlines


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