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Welcome to Middle East reality

Western policy makers and public opinion molders tend to oversimplify Middle East reality and subordinate the 1,400 year old unpredictable, violent and shifty intra-Arab and intra-Muslim non-Western environment to their own Western state-of-mind and well-intentioned wishful-thinking.

Middle East reality – as demonstrated, systematically, by the Arab walk – has frustrated Western misperceptions of the “Middle East conflict,” which has never been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, and contrary to Western conventional wisdom, Middle East reality has underlined the Palestinian issue as a non-core-cause of Middle East turbulence, not a crown jewel of Arab policy making, nor the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Moreover, Western peace initiatives tend to downplay the fact that Middle East reality has yet to experience long-term intra-Arab or intra-Muslim domestic and regional peaceful coexistence.

While Western observers tend to refer to the Arab-Israeli conflict as “the Middle East conflict,” in reality, the Middle East has been dominated by a multitude of intra-Arab and intra-Muslim conflicts, totally unrelated to Israel, neither directly nor indirectly.

Thus, the April 4, 2019 France 24, reports that the Khalifa Haftar militia – one of dozens of militias afflicting Libya since the 2011 toppling of Qaddafi – is advancing on Tripoli. In fact, civil wars have traumatized Libya since the toppling of Qaddafi, which was led by the US/NATO, despite the fact that the Libyan dictator transferred his nuclear infrastructure to the US and fought Islamic terror organizations in North Africa. The Libyan revolution – which produced some 30,000 fatalities – transformed that strategically located country into a major platform of Islamic terrorism, threatening every country in Northern Africa, Sub Sahara Africa, Europe and beyond.

A multitude of inter-Arab, inter-Muslim wars have afflicted the Middle East since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century.  More recently the regional reality has featured conflicts – unrelated to Israel – such as the Syrian civil war, which erupted in 2011 (with over half a million killed and about 10 million displaced and/or refugees); the Iraq civil war since 2003 (around 500,000 casualties and 3 million refugees and displaced persons); the most recent civil war in Yemen, which has also been a Saudi-Iran war-by-proxy (some 100,000 dead and 3 million refugees), that succeeded the civil war of the 1960s, with Egyptian involvement (with some 200,000 killed); the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war (800,000 killed) was a follow up to their 1936-1974 wars and the 1975 peace agreement; the South Yemen-Oman war of 1968-1970 (with some 100,000 killed and half a million refugees; etc.

While the Middle East volcano emits lava (including terrorism), which threatens to sweep every Arab/Islamic regime, further destabilizing the region, increasingly afflicting and threatening the homeland security of Western Europe and the US, many Western policy makers and observers are still preoccupied with the Palestinian issue, which is relatively-minor in the Middle East Arab/Muslim context.

At a time, when the US contemplates a new Israel-Palestinian peace initiative, one may benefit from an essay by Amir Taheri, an Iran-born veteran author and analyst of Middle East affairs, whose analyses have been vindicated by reality.

Taheri poses the following rhetorical question: “Is Israel the problem? With the Middle East in crisis from end to end, analysts focus on one rather peripheral dispute.”

This experienced analyst sheds light on the critical flaws of Western movers and shakers, such as the late President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker.  Thus, rather than leverage the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and the devastation of Saddam Hussein’s military – by enhancing the US posture of deterrence, clipping the wings of Iran’s Ayatollahs and advancing a durable pact of security cooperation between Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and additional Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula – the US focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict and convened the 1991 Madrid Conference.  Taheri defined it as “an impressive show of heads of states, but as proven by subsequent events, a wholly counterproductive exercise in peacemaking….

“The two key assumptions that led to Madrid were that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the issue… and that all other issues in the region were inextricably linked to it…. For a group of American ‘wise men’ to embrace such retrograde and easily refuted notions, bespeaks a truly dangerous ignorance of reality….

“In fact, far from being the root cause of instability and war in the wider Middle East, one could argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict is rather peripheral…. That the Arabs have long regarded Iran as an alien power is true enough. But, their preoccupation with Teheran has hardly deterred them from fighting bitterly among themselves as well…. The only neighbor with whom Egypt enjoys demarcated and internationally recognized borders is Israel….

“The notion that all of the [intra-Arab, intra-Muslim] problems can be waved away by ‘solving’ the Arab-Israeli conflict is, at best, a delusion…. With the exception of Israel, and the partial exception of Turkey, the entire Middle East lacks a culture of conflict resolution…. Such a culture can only be shaped through a process of democratization….”

Have Western policy makers learned from their predecessors by avoiding – or repeating – systematic errors, while addressing Middle East challenges and threats?

 




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Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2019 (Roots of the USA)

Based on ancient Jewish Sages, April 12, 2019
More on Passover and other Jewish holidays: http://bit.ly/137Er6J

  1. The Early Pilgrims and Founding Fathers of the USA were inspired by Passover’s message of optimism while facing severe challenges and threats. Moses and the US leaders catapulted their peoples from the lowest ebb of spiritual and physical servitude (to the Egyptian King Pharaoh and the British King George III) to the highest level of liberty/freedom (in the Land of Israel and the United States of America).

The Passover/Exodus saga is retold annually in order to engrain the sublime value of morally-driven liberty, faith and optimism, while defying pessimism and despair, as a prerequisite to freedom and victory over lethal challenges and threats.

The annual reciting of the Exodus – during the Passover holiday – enhances personal and national benefits, which are derived from experience – expressing gratitude for the blessing of liberty (which must not be taken for granted), while refraining from past errors.

  1. The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Five Books of Moses, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee – the Biblical foundation of liberty – which is featured on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (installed in 1751 – the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges): “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus, 25:10).” Moses received the Torah – which includes 50 gates of wisdom – 50 days after the Exodus, as celebrated by the Shavou’ot/Pentecost holiday, 50 days after Passover. There are 50 States in the United States, whose Hebrew name is ארצות הברית= “The States of the Covenant”. And, in the US there are 50 towns named Jerusalem (18) and Salem, the original Biblical name of Jerusalem (32).
  2. The Exodus has been an integral part of the American story since the landing of the Early Pilgrims in the 17th century. They considered themselves “the people of the modern day Exodus,” who departed from “the modern day Egypt” (Britain), rebelled against “the modern day Pharaoh,” (King James I and King Charles I), crossed “the modern day Red Sea” (the Atlantic Ocean), and headed toward “the modern day Promised Land” (the USA). Hence, the abundance of US towns and sites bearing Biblical names, such as Jerusalem, Salem, Moriah, Bethel, Shiloh, Ephrata’, Tekoa, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Zion, Carmel, Sharon, Gilboa, Gilead, Rehoboth, Tabor, Pisgah, etc.
  3. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – “the cement of the 1776 Revolution” – referred to King George III as “the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England.” John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – the 2nd and 3rd US presidents – and Benjamin Franklin, proposed the Parting of the Sea as the official US seal. The proposal was tabled, but the chosen seal features thirteen stars (colonies), in the shape of a Star of David, above the Eagle. Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University – which features on its shield “Urim and Thummim,” the power of the High Priest during the Exodus – stated on May 8, 1873: “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people, the number of people in America in 1776.”
  4. Herman Melville (Moby Dick) in his 1849 novel, White Jacket: “We, Americans, are the peculiar chosen people – the Israel of our time.”
  5. In 1850, Harriet Tubman (who was known as “Mama Moses”) established the “Underground Railroad,” embraced Moses’ “Let my people go,” paving the road to an Exodus of black slaves. Paul Robeson and Louis Armstrong reverberated the liberty theme of Passover through the lyrics: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go! Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go….!” On December 11, 1964, upon accepting the Nobel Prize, Martin Luther King, Jr., “the Moses of his age”, said: “The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go!’”
  6. Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President 1960: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never be entering, but which Joshua would make his own.”
  7. Today, the bust of Moses faces the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Eight statues and engravings of Moses and the Tablets are featured in the US Supreme Court, one of them above the nine Supreme Court Justices. The floor of the US National Archives features the engraved Ten Commandments. Ten Commandments monuments were erected on the grounds of the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas state capitols.
  8. According to the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research, the Exodus took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II. Accordingly, the 40-year national coalescing of the Jewish people – while wandering in the desert – took place when Egypt was ruled by Thutmose IV. Joshua conquered Canaan when Egypt was ruled by Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, who were preoccupied with domestic affairs, refraining from expansionist operations. Moreover, letters discovered in Tel el Amarna, the capital city of ancient Egypt, documented that the 14th century BCE Pharaoh, Amenhotep IV, was informed by the rulers of Jerusalem, Samaria and other parts of Canaan, about a military offensive launched by the “Habirus” (Hebrews and other Semitic tribes), which corresponded to the timing of Joshua’s offensive against the same rulers. Amenhotep IV was a determined reformer, who introduced monotheism, possibly influenced by the ground-breaking and game-changing Exodus. Further documentation of the Exodus is provided by Dr. Joshua Berman of Bar Ilan University.
  9. The message of Passover/Exodus is dominated by the theme of liberty, which guided the Early Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers of the USA. Liberty was doubly appreciated in the aftermath of 210 years in slavery of the Jewish people in Egypt. The strategic goal of the Passover concept of liberty was not revenge, nor imperialistic, nor subordination of the Egyptian people, but the enshrining of communal/collective liberty throughout humanity.
  10. According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”
  11. The Hebrew word for “liberty” (Kheroot, חירות) is closely linked to the Hebrew word for “responsibility” (Akhrayoot,אחריות ), aiming to avoid anarchy and dictatorship. The Hebrew spelling of “responsibility” (אחריות) starts with the words “follow me” (אחרי), which behooves responsible individuals to assume leadership in advancing liberty. The Hebrew spelling of “responsibility” starts with the first letter of the alphabet (א), ending with the last letter (ת), attesting to the comprehensive/full – not partial – nature of responsibility.
  12. Mosaic liberty (חירות) is also associated with the Hebrew word for “inscribed” (Kharoot, חרות) which refers to the eternal inscription of liberty (Exodus 32:16).
  13. Passover highlights the central role of women: Yocheved, Moses’ mother, hid Moses and then breastfed him at the palace of Pharaoh, posing as a nursemaid; Miriam, Moses’ older sister, was her brother’s keeper; Batyah, the daughter of Pharaoh saved and adopted Moses (Exodus 2:1-10); Shifrah and Pou’ah, two Jewish midwives, risked their lives, sparing the lives of Jewish male babies, in violation of Pharaoh’s command (Exodus 1:15-19); Tziporah, Moses’ wife, saved the life of Moses and set him back on the Jewish course (Exodus, 4:24-27). They followed in the footsteps of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, the Matriarchs who engineered, in many respects, the roadmap of the Patriarchs.
  14. Passover is the first of the three Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem, followed by Shavou’ot (Pentecost), which commemorates the receipt of the Ten Commandments, and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), named after Sukkota – the first stop in the Exodus.
  15. The Passover Seder is concluded by the declaration: “Next Year in the rebuilt, unified Jerusalem!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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