Melanie Phillips

10 October 2011

The murderous vacuum in the Middle East

Published in: Daily Mail

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In Israel and the West Bank, there has been a wave of attacks by extremists on mosques, synagogues and Christian sites, including swastikas spray-painted on Joseph’s tomb near Nablus.  Two Jewish suspects have now been arrested in connection with an arson attack at a mosque in the Arab village of Tuba Zanghariya. It appears that Jewish fanatics are behind at least some of these attacks – although it is unclear whether Jews or Arabs were responsible for attacks on Muslim and Christian sites in Jaffa over Yom Kippur, despite the Guardian instantly blaming this upon Israeli ‘settlers’, as noted by CiF Watch here -- and the Israeli authorities are said to be concerned that Jewish extremists are attempting to provoke civil war with the Arabs.

Such violence by Jews should not only be condemned unreservedly by all Jewish religious and lay leaders, but also must be acted upon with contumely by the Israeli authorities. No excuses. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that all such perpetrators will be brought to justice, but this just isn’t good enough.

The violence by Jewish religious extremists will only be curbed when their patrons in politics no longer wield such disproportionate power in political life by holding successive Israeli Prime Ministers to ransom through Israel’s dysfunctional system of institutionalised coalition government. And that ludicrous and self-destructive political system – responsible not only for paralysing Israeli Prime Ministers, empowering religious extremists and widening social divisions but also for the country’s endemic and shocking corruption -- will only be ended if an Israeli statesman emerges committed to root-and-branch electoral reform.

The current insurrectionary atmosphere behind this disorder has surely been fuelled by tensions stoked up by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine statehood stunt at the UN last month. Clearly, the feared eruption of serious violence predicted to follow this event has not occurred (yet). Nevertheless, such theatrics undoubtedly raised tensions and fears and almost certainly have contributed to the current flare-ups.

But while Israel-bashers are salivating over the weapons of hatred handed to them by the spectacle of Jewish extremists, the western media is failing to report (as ever) the extent of the attacks on Jews by Arabs. To western journalists who so wickedly demonise the Israeli ’settlers’ as the cause of Arab violence, Arab attacks on these dehumanised Jews can be ignored. Yet as even the no-less rabidly anti-settler Ha’aretz has reported, there were no fewer than 498 incidents of Arabs throwing rocks at Jews during September – some 33 percent up on the same month last year.

A few days ago, such an attack claimed the lives of 25 year-old Asher Palmer and his baby son Yehonatan, who were murdered when a massive rock was thrown at their car as they were driving near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. There has also been a report that an Israeli woman in labour and her husband narrowly escaped being lynched as they rushed to hospital in Jerusalem at the weekend.

In both cases, it should be noted that the Israeli police appeared extraordinarily resistant to the idea that these were cases of Arab terrorism. In the first, the attack – for which two Arabs have now been arrested -- was falsely described by police as a car accident, despite the clear evidence of a rock through the windshield; in the second, the husband claimed the police were uninterested when he reported the attack. Such apparent indifference or incompetence by the police can only fuel Jewish fears and further inflame tensions.

You’d be hard put to find such attacks reported properly in the western media, if at all. But the media is ignoring far more than such localised Arab violence against Jews. It has also ignored yet more statements made in the wake of Abbas’s UN stunt, which advertise in flashing neon lights the fact that the problem to be solved in the Middle East is not the absence of a state of Palestine but the true aim of the people the west persists in treating as ‘moderates’ who ‘deserve’ a state of their own.

Thus Sari Nusseibeh, the philosophy professor who has long been lionised by the left as the supreme Palestinian moderate, declared that recognising Israel as a Jewish state was ‘inherently problematic’. The idea that the Jews had a right to express their right to self-determination in their own historic homeland was apparently

‘logically and morally problematic because of its legal, religious, historical and social implications.’

Those problematic implications being, inescapably, that the Jews have a right to be in Israel – because it seems that, while Nusseibeh appears to have no problem with Judaism as a religion, he denies Jewish peoplehood (which is indissolubly bound up with the religion) -- and thus the right of the Jews to self-determination. Among the deeply disingenuous arguments, leaps of logic, double standards, slippery history and denial of Jewish peoplehood deployed by Nusseibeh, one claim in particular jumped out in its sheer breathtaking perversity:

‘Fourth, at least one in five Israelis - 20 per cent of the population, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics - is ethnically Arab (and are mostly either Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai), and recognising Israel as a ‘Jewish State’ as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them, most undemocratically, to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights) - something that no-one, much less a Palestinian leader, has a right to do.’

But the idea that a country has to be homogenous to be democratic is absurd. Israel’s Arab minority (like all the others) has full democratic rights within the Jewish state of Israel. Far from being stripped of citizenship by such a Jewish state, Israeli Arabs serve as full participants in its civic life – including the fact that an Israeli Arab recently served as the chief justice in the court that sent a former Israeli president to prison for rape.  Not only does Nusseibeh ignore the reality of Israeli Arab civic equality, but more bizarrely he writes as if the idea of Israel as a Jewish state is something that is merely in the realm of hypothesis. But the only people for whom Israel cannot be considered a Jewish state -- not now, not ever -- are Nusseibeh and the Palestinians for whom he speaks.

Accordingly, since Israel is a Jewish state it follows that Nusseibeh would wish it to be destroyed as such – an aim expressed with fewer words and less bullshit by Alzeben Ibrahim, the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil, who recently told a group of university students that ‘Israel should disappear.’ Never mind Hamas; the aim of these rejectionist Palestinian ‘moderates’ -- who include Abbas in their ranks -- is thus no different in essence (if not in execution) from that of Iran’s Ahmadinejad, who has often declared his intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

You’d be hard put to find such shocking comments by these Palestinians even reported, let alone analysed for their grotesque implications, by the ‘settler’-fixated western media. Yet this selective vision extends far beyond even these glaring omissions.  For look at what’s happening in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, which just about the entire media and political class decided from the get-go was the harbinger of a brave new dawn of democracy – but where on the contrary the outcome is far from clear, and where the risk that the most likely eventual victors will be radical Islamists remains very real.

In Egypt, which is rapidly descending into political chaos, at least 24 Coptic Christians were killed and hundreds more injured yesterday when the Egyptian army mowed down demonstrators who took to the Cairo streets in protest after a church was set on fire near Aswan last week. This follows repeated attacks on Christians in Egypt since the ousting of President Mubarak – whose removal from office was eagerly promoted by Britain, America and Europe.

When President Obama or Prime Minister Cameron read about the attacks on Egypt’s Christians, do they realise that this is, in part at least, their doing? Are they capable of ever acknowledging just what they have helped unleash?

The myopia over the ‘Arab Spring’ is the mirror image of the tunnel vision over Israel. Both arise from the same refusal to acknowledge the true civilisational threat to the free world. As the murderous tensions in the Middle East continue to escalate in the vacuum created as a result of the negation of truth and justice by those who have left Israel to swing in the wind, it is hard to know which is the more terrifying—the malevolence displayed by the west, or its sheer craven stupidity.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie