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Friday, February 18, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

How the West imagines the Middle East, and
how it really is

By Alexander Maistrovoy,

In the middle of the 15th century the waters of Lausanne lakes were flooded with bloodsuckers that afflicted the population of the city. To stop this misfortune, rich citizens asked for assistance from famous Heidelberg ecclesiastics. A criminal case was initiated against the contemptible creatures. Some of them were brought to court to listen to the judgment. They were ordered to leave the lakes within three days. Ecclesiastics performed spells and rituals after which bloodsuckers, as annals say, shamefully retired.


James Clapper, left, director of National Intelligence, and Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 10.     AFP/Saul Loeb
This story was mentioned by a famous social anthropologist James Frazer, and it strongly reminds me of the West’s reaction to the political cataclysms of the Arab World.

All that we hear from Washington , London , Paris and Berlin can be combined into a mantra of three parts: Free and democratic elections and the observance of human rights; Continuation of the peace process; Belief in irreversibility of Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.

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Each of these is related neither to reality nor to each other.

You can call the current events everything you like — outburst of unspent youth’s energy, hungry revolts, “grapes of wrath” — but not a way to “freedom, democracy and human rights.” During the 14th century of its existence the Muslim world endures the painful convulsions reminding one of the past two thousand years, swirling in the Jewish world and Medieval Christian Europe.

The current events are not similar to French and Russian revolutions, which had even if utopian, but ideological orientations. They are equivalents of bloody uprisings of the Middle Ages: The Jacquerie, the rebellions of Wat Tyler, Jan Žižka and Stepan (Sten’ka) Razin.

Such revolts inevitably lead to reprisals and much more brutal absolutism. In the case of Egypt and Tunisia one need not be a prophet to see the future.

In those countries where there are not even rudiments of a native market economy, no culture of tolerance, and concept of “civil rights,” where semiliterate preachers rule the minds, religious movements remain the only real force. In other words, any elections will bring to power the Muslim Brotherhood. It happened in Algeria in 1991, in Iran and in Gaza. Very few people remember that in the Iranian revolution of 1979, left-wing radical groups Mojahedin-E Khalq, Fedain al-Khalq, and communists from Tudeh Party of Iran also participated. They were crushed by Islamists who got support of the majority of the population. The same occurred in Gaza where Hamas won a decisive victory in elections. Then the key Fatah activists were physically annihilated. The same will almost certainly happen in Egypt and Tunisia.

The basic of Islamic ideology is militant clericalism and hatred of Western culture, no matter how appeasable and pliable it is. The imperative is simple: “I hate you because you exist.”

You can name the Muslim Brotherhood “heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaida as a perversion of Islam,” as the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did. It is possible to express hope that Egypt can become an example of democratization for all Arabian states, as Tony Blair did. And following Obama, admire the fact that “the people of Egypt have spoken.” These spells are equal to those of ecclesiastics of Heidelberg.

Even before the revolution an Egyptian Islamic Scholar Ibrahim Al-Khouli formulated the concept of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Forget about Bin Laden and Al-Qaida. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about Jihad which is led by the Islamic scholars … I am talking about the Jihad of the entire nation. We must conduct jihad against the West, who are aggressors against the Land of Islam.”

Anyway, the inevitable result of the Muslim Brotherhood victory will be abolishing the peace treaty with Israel. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. That is why the first Hamas-Israeli conflict will leave them no choice.

According to the Pew poll that took place before the current events, almost half of the Egyptian population was favorable toward Hamas. In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, coming to power will cause this percentage to rise sharply.

On Feb. 1, Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said: “After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.”

On Feb. 4, Dr. Ashraf Abdulgaffar, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood spoke in Istanbul: “No to Israel and America."

“And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” Belshazzar’s writing can’t be seen but its spells continue: Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Secretary General of NATO.

Will the Palestinian state have a chance to survive if the power of its leaders is limited to Ramallah and ensured by Israeli security forces? What will happen the next day after the IDF leaves the West Bank? Which party will win any democratic election? We know the answers to these questions. The next question, therefore, is: If the width of the territory in the central, most densely populated part of the country doesn’t exceed 20-25 km, how can Israel defend its border against the united armies of Egypt and Hamas, Syria and Hizbullah not to mention Iran?

Can Israel believe the promises of the Western countries if Obama cancels obligations of his predecessor and the West has betrayed everybody who had imprudence to cast in the lot with it: from the Iranian Shah to Hosni Mubarak?

Alas, the West isn’t able to think and behave differently. It is the hostage of its own clichés, and can’t abandon them as ancient people couldn’t abandon the outlook in conformity with which the world stood on three whales and three elephants.

Certainly, Europe and the U.S. can’t change the tendency in the Arab world, but they could try to neutralize the threat and to do their best to support their last bastions: Israel, Jordan and the kingdoms on the Persian Gulf. Instead of repeating a sacred mantra about the “integrity of Iraq,” try to create a viable Kurdistan state especially when Turkey has adopted an openly anti-Western attitude. They could strengthen the military potential of friendly Christian countries on the Balkans and in Africa that fear expansion of Islam, and support the still strong Christian community in Lebanon.

Perhaps the European powers of Belle Epoque would have done so but certainly not the present West. They have neither the will, nor courage, nor ingenuity, nor common sense.

They hope to eliminate the threat of Islamic fundamentalism by the same methods as ecclesiastics from Heidelberg used. They will hardly succeed.

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