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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Arab psychosis

There was a very interesting interview of the Al-Jazeera editor by a Swiss journalist. The entire thing is worth reading but this part is the most revealing:
(Interviewee Ahmed Shiekh): In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.

Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.
We've spoken before about Arab pride and how ingrained it is in the Arab psyche. But even though there are many examples of how important "honor" and "pride" is to the Arab people, one can almost wish it away by thinking that it is only a side-effect of being religious, or poor, or oppressed, and not something that is truly inherent.

But here we have Ahmed Sheikh, an educated man, an editor for a worldwide news service, someone who is a journalist and is trained to be careful with his words. And this man is saying with a straight face that if Israel did not exist, the Arab world would not have any problems - and that the reason is this perverse sense of pride.

The clear inference, of course, is that it is Israel's very existence that is the problem from the Arab perspective - not territories, not occupation, not supposed Israeli war crimes.

Earlier in the interview, Sheikh justifies suicide bombings and says how convinced he is that Israel targets civilians purposefully. Again, this is supposedly an objective journalist that represents the mainstream thinking of the Arab world at large - no fringe group, noIslamic cult, no poverty-stricken or easily manipulated Arab street crowd.

This is the Arab intelligentsia.

And it is psychotic. There is no other word for it - there is no way the Western mind can rationalize or comprehend this mental illness.

Too many Westerners are willing to accept this as a fact of life and sacrifice Israel on the altar of realpolitik - which means that the inmates are this much closer to ruling the asylum.