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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Middle East falling apart and - shocka - it has nothing to do with the absence of a 'Palestinian state'

Former JPost editor Douglas Davis writes that the Middle East is about to come apart in a paroxysm of violence and hatred, and - surprise, surprise, surprise - it has absolutely nothing to do with the absence of a 'Palestinian state.'
Europe’s political and media classes are missing the point. Lazy, ignorant or both, they persist in reading from a clapped-out, 30-year-old script – if it was accurate even then – when they declaim on Middle East affairs. As if the "occupation", the "settlements", the "tunnel", the "wall" and other “crisis issues” are the cause of the all world’s ills; as if the birth of Palestine holds the key to tranquillity and peace, perhaps even utopia.
Solve the Palestinian problem and you solve the problems of the world. Or at least the region. Wrong then, wrong now, according to a senior Arab political source. “Make no mistake,” he told me earnestly over dinner last week, “We are on the brink of a catastrophe. And it has nothing whatever to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
He added:
“The Palestinians have never been among the top-10 priorities of any Arab government. Arab leaders don’t give a damn about the Palestinians. They have simply used the Palestinian issue to divert attention from their own failures – to cover up their ineptitude, inadequacies and corruption. Their oppressive security measures were never meant to combat ‘Zionist aggression’ but to suppress the anger of their own people. It’s been an exercise in cynicism, pure and simple. And even Western governments swallowed it.”
Now, he says, the Arab world – and the wider Islamic world – is facing reality. It is a reality that has nothing to do with the Arab Spring, democracy, freedom and liberty. Nor does it have anything to do with rage-fuelled violence supposedly incited by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, conspiracy theories about Western imperialism, Jewish influence-peddling, crusader aggression, insulting cartoons or YouTube videos (though such pretexts are often used to justify pre-ordained spasms of violence).
“It’s true that there are sanctions against insulting the Prophet,” notes Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle East studies at Princeton University, “but this is really about political or symbolic opportunists who use religious symbols to advance their own power or prestige against other groups.”
The reality is not a contest over symbols and power. The Arab world, which has been in decline relative to the West for 300 years, is at bursting point (the 57 Islamic states account for some 20 per cent of the world’s population but account for less than 7 per cent of its output).
Today, the Middle East is standing on the edge of an internecine eruption that is likely to sweep away the existing order and radically alter the regional order, with far-reaching strategic implications for the West.
The region is splitting apart and ready to explode out of its largely artificial boundaries along two major fault lines, ethnic and religious.
Read the whole thing, because he's got it right.  And what's worse is that if Obama is reelected, the United States - which is the only power that might be able to do something about it - will have it wrong at just the wrong time.

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