So far, so good - the esteemed professor identifies a large undercurrent of problems throughout the Arab world and is seeking a common thread.
Many, I believe, share my sense of alarm over current events in the Arab world. Many wonder what will become of a region home to the world's worst crises. In Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan millions are being killed and repressed, imprisoned and tortured, expelled and displaced, brutalised and starved. No sooner do explosions abate in one location that they would flare up in another. Places of worship, the traditional safe haven for those in need of protection, have not just been caught up in the cycle of murder, but have become a target for destruction and bombing. Amid the dust cloud rising from chaos, everyone seems to be grabbing each other's throats. Often, we don't know what the fighting is about.
The most disturbing thing is that the crises present in the aforementioned countries keep escalating, finding new twists, and spilling over elsewhere in a whirlwind of intersecting disasters. Like a deadly disease slowly working its way across the region, some of our countries are in utter turmoil while others appear quiet on the surface. We don't hear explosions in these countries, nor do we see rivers of blood flowing. But if we look beneath the surface, we soon discover that these countries are neither immune nor sturdy. An eruption can happen at any moment.
There is no denying that the crises gripping the Arab world, whether evident or latent, have various roots. The causes may differ from one country to another, but there is a common thread somewhere -- a common thread that makes all vulnerable to civil war, to the kind of turmoil that may redraw the map of the region along ethnic or sectarian lines. How did we get into this fix? Is it self-destruction? Or is it the handiwork of outside powers? If so, what are their plans and intents?
OK, perhaps a little biased, but on the whole an admirable attempt to realistically come to grips with reality. Right?
The mere asking of such questions causes controversy in the circles of the Arab elite. Any attempt to answer such questions inevitably puts one in one of two camps: the camp of conspiracy theory and the camp of self- deprecation. The camp of conspiracy theory has a ready- made interpretation for every disaster. It blames all sorts of evil on outside powers that hate the Arabs and the Islamic world -- mainly the US and Israel. The camp of self- deprecation takes the opposite point of view. It argues that our troubles are due to pitfalls latent in the nature of Arab and Islamic political systems. Both camps are busy ridiculing each other's thinking. So you can only challenge one or both at your own risk.
The conspiracy theory people tend to overlook aspects of inertia in the structure of Arab and Islamic regimes, as if the latter have no influence on our dismal reality. The self- deprecating people hate to admit that certain powers are plotting against the Arab world, and are therefore responsible for many of our current tribulations. I believe that it is time to get over the polarisation between those two schools of thought. We should start assessing events on the Arab and Islamic scene from various angles and dimensions, both domestic and foreign. We need to look at the entire picture. No conspiracies, however elaborate, can succeed without the inbuilt drawbacks in our systems.
I would like now to discuss the way the Zionist mind works and how it hopes to establish a major and dominant Jewish state in the region.Ah, an analysis of the Zionist mind! Things are getting interesting!
To shed light on that issue, consider an article entitled "A strategy for Israel in the 1980s". Oded Yinon, a former Israeli journalist and diplomat, wrote the article in Hebrew. It appeared in February 1982 in the newspaper Kivunim. The article drew the attention of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, which asked Israel Shahak, the well-known Israeli human rights activist, to translate it into English and comment on it. The article was then republished under the title, "The Zionist plan for the Middle East."Yes, out of the hundreds of articles written by Israelis and Zionists about foreign affairs in the past six decades, our good professor seems to have decided - based on commentary by one of the most outstanding Jewish anti-semites of recent history - that this one is emblematic of all of Zionist thought.
Just as an example, Shahak wrote in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion. The Weight of Three Thousand Years that orthodox Jews worship Satan during ritual hand-washing before meals and that Jewish children are taught a curse to say when they walk outside non-Jewish cemeteries. Yes, the professor has found his authority.
Some may wonder why I am interested in an article written by an obscure journalist, even if he was a former employee in the Israeli Foreign Minister. Why would I treat that article as if it were an official document released by the Zionist movement or Israel, instead of relying on the many documents released by official figures and organisations? To those, I would say that Professor Shahak, an authority in Zionist thinking, described the article as the most extensive on the subject and as faithfully mirroring the thinking of the Zionist mainstream on the matter of dividing the Arab world.
Now that we've solved that problem, time to see what this clearly seminal article from that obscure journal that is the blueprint of Zionist thinking actually says.
Does it make sense, you may ask, for the Zionist movement to publish a paper that would reveal its true intentions, even if it were written in Hebrew? Shahak provides the answer to this question. First, he points out that the aim of the document is to educate the new generations of the Israeli elite, especially in the military, of the thinking of the founding fathers, whose teachings were up to then relayed orally. Secondly, the Zionists doubt the ability of the Arab mind to react sensibly to any threats, however devastating those could be.
The Zionist strategy at stake involves two main aspects. One is its perception of the structure of the region surrounding it from the demographic, social and cultural perspectives. The other aspect is its perception of the security of the Jewish state and of the means to defend this security in an absolute manner, which is the ultimate aim of the Zionist movement.I can imagine a serious article talking about how fractured the Arab world is, and even how it is in Israel's interests to encourage indigenous ethnic Arab subgroups to assert themselves. But it takes a special kind of paranoia to see this article as a blueprint for regional Zionist domination that echoes, in nationlistic terms, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And now that this Egyptian professor feels that his arguments are air-tight, he is free to see the world since 1982 in terms of Jewish - um, Zionist - domination:
Concerning the first aspect, the Zionist movement sees the Arab world not as an integral entity that is ethnically, socially, or religiously cohesive, but as a region of immense diversity, a mosaic of countries inside which tribes, sects and minorities are in continual conflict. Current entities, or Arab states, have been created through historic and political coincidences related to the ambitions of foreign powers (the imperial powers that inherited the Ottoman Empire) and the interplay of domestic interests (of tribes, clans and political and social movements). The Zionist movement believes that these units, or Arab states, cannot endure in their current form and can easily be dismantled, which would allow for the region to be reshaped on completely different foundations.
Concerning the second aspect, the Zionist movement believes that Israel's security cannot be achieved through military superiority alone, however important that military superiority may be. So no other major central state should be allowed to exist in the region. The Zionist movement is determined to break up any central state in the region and divide it into small entities created on ethnic or sectarian lines. Once this is done, Israel would become vindicated, for its ethnic foundations would be no different than that of other countries in the region; and Israel would become the biggest, strongest, and most advanced country in the Middle East. This would give it the clout it needs to lead the region and control its future course. In other words, Israel would be the region's mastermind, the country that calls the shots and tells others what to do.
There you have it. A secret Zionist plan, cleverly leaked out to the public where only the most far-seeing Arabs can see its huge importance, for regional dominance and the destruction of the Arab world.
The above is a short synopsis of Yinon's article, and yet the article is worthy of further discussion. First, because the article was published for the first time years after Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel, a few months after the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat, and a few months before Israel pulled out of Sinai on 25 April 1982. When Israel invaded Lebanon, less than four months after the article was published, it was literally doing everything Yinon recommended. ...
Second, it has now become clear, beyond any doubt, that the Zionist movement, led by Israel, has played a pivotal role in prodding the current US administration to invade Iraq. The US administration acted like a tool in the hand of a Zionist movement that wanted Iraq partitioned at any cost, and that hopes to see other countries in the region follow suit.
Third, it is the right of future generations of Arab citizens to be aware of plots against their countries. We must encourage the young generations to keep an open mind about all ideas, including those attributed to conspiracy theories, before they wake up one day and discover that their future has been shattered or their land taken away.
I will dedicate three more articles to a detailed discussion of Yinon's essay. In the first article, I will discuss Zionist schemes against Egypt, focussing on Israel's hope to restore Sinai and divide Egypt into two states, a Coptic one in the south and a Sunni one in the north. In the second article, I will discuss Zionist designs on the eastern part of the Arab world; namely, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In the third, I will discuss Zionist schemes for the Gulf and North Africa. Again, I do not wish to promote conspiracy theories per se, but some risks of naïvety are too real to ignore.
This is how the elite academics and intellectuals of the Arab world - in a country that is supposedly at peace with Israel - think. (I would rather not fall into the trap this author does of generalizing one article - if someone can find me Egyptian political science articles that do not think that there is a Zionist plan to dominate the Arab world or the world at large, I will be happy to give it equal space. But I've never seen it.)