A Simplistic View of the Middle East, part 1

Ahmadinejad’s Iran has successfully refined uranium, and has thus joined the elite corps of nations with nuclear technology. Sufficient purity for an explosive is still years away, if it is indeed being pursued, but this announcement is nonetheless an important one. It squarely puts the pressure on the Americans to “put up or shut up.” What will they do?

The scuttlebut continues to be that the US, UK and Israel will attack soon, perhaps ironically with nuclear weapons. But the wise action would be to simply congratulate Ahmadinejad on his achievement and to start treating Iran like a viable market for civilian nuclear products, which it most certainly is now. Large scale production of nuclear energy in Iran frees up its oil for export only. Europe, Russia and India in particular would be well advised to start negotiating a good price for that small surplus.

The American response will be quite telling. Wait for it and read it carefully. Israel, meanwhile, will be slow to respond, since newly elected Prime Minister Ohmert is still finding his voice. Speaking of Israel, perhaps it’s time for me to talk a little bit about my attitudes toward that state.

A couple of nights ago, I had the privilege to have supper with a Director of the B’Nai Brith in Canada, a fellow who happens to have been a Conservative candidate in the last federal election. Yes, I socialize with those of the opposite political colour, so what? This is the nature of a free democracy: we can debate the appropriate course of actions while accepting that all players ultimately want what is best for the country. There is no need to create personal animosities, unless ethical lines are clearly crossed. What ethical lines? Well, racist and homophobic ones are typically identified these days. But, for the most part, all mainstream players on the Canadian political landscape are essentially decent people.

And this is certainly the case of the B’Nai Brith, an organization with a proud history of defending defamed and marginalised peoples, with, in my opinion, an understandable specific bias toward protecting defamed and and marginalised Jewish interests. (The organization is Jewish in origin, after all.) Now, I have recent issues with the Brith, based on their defence of Israeli strong-arm “terrorist” tactics against Palestinians, as typified by this infamous TV quote:

“When Israel uses terror . . . to destroy a home and convince people to be terrified of what the possible consequences are, I’d say that’s acceptable use to terrify someone.” -Adam Aptowitzer, the Ontario chairman of B’nai Brith Canada’s Institute for International Affairs, Oct 2004

And herein lies the problem with contextualizing the role of Israel in North American affairs. Clearly, the Israeli people tend to be caring and reasonable. The very existence of the B’Nai Brith is an example of that soulfulness. And indeed, Israeli voters are typically moderate, pushing for real negotiations with whoever is representing the Palestinians. The confounding influence arises when members of the Israeli hard Right sell their extremist political views, often cached in Zionist dogma, as being typical of all Israeli Jewish thought.

This is, unsurprisingly, the same mess that curses political Islam: the machinations of a duplicitous subset tarnish the reputations of the whole. The Israeli Zionists push for the expansion of settlements on disputed lands, solely to piss off Palestinians and establish de facto ownership. And they constitute perhaps the most powerful political lobby in Washington, DC, managing to conflate Zionist ambition with Jewish mentality, when the two are not the same. It is possible to be Jewish without being Zionist, just as it is possible to be Muslim without being Islamist.

But because of bigotry on both sides, every individual is tarnished with the homogenizing brush of their misleaders, and the result is suicide bombings, the bulldozing of homes, asassinations of Palestinian leaders, targeted terrorism against Jewish individuals, the hoarding of arsenals (now nuclear) and negotiations in bad faith.

How do we solve this? We begin by removing the Western investments in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (of which Israel receives disproportionately more support). When left to fight with their own money, I think there will be strong incentive for both parties to broker a permanent peace.

To be continued.