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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another pseudo-intellectual whiny article blaming Israel for everything wrong in the Arab world

I can't get enough of these exercises in self-delusion that the Arab intelligentsia come out with so often:
The damage done to the Arabs by Israel’s creation is an untold story in the West. To understand it, you have to set aside the Israeli narrative and the idea of Arabs as fanatical, backward warmongers irrationally bent on destroying a modern, democratic and peaceable state.
Fair enough. Let's see:
For the Arabs, Israel’s presence in their midst has been disastrous. It has led to six major wars, forced them to militarise when they could not afford it, distorted their development, split their ranks and encouraged their fragmentation into ethnic and religious minorities, provoked the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and reared generations of young Arabs on conflict, hatred and hostility. It has forced them to host a state that dominated them and ensured continued western hegemony in their region. A disproportionate amount of damage was borne by the frontline states of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. But now Iraq and the rest of the Arab world are affected, as is Arab society in general.

Hmmm....the only way I can understand the Arab world wanting so badly to destroy Israel since 1948, ramping up its military, threatening Israel at every turn, moving its vast resources from development into war and terror - is to say that they are "fanatical, backward warmongers irrationally bent on destroying a modern, democratic and peaceable state." But that might just be me.
On each visit to the Arab world I am struck by its immense resources and its varied geography, history and customs, from Yemen to the Levant, sweeping through Egypt and Sudan to its westernmost point in Morocco. Such diversity could have made this the wonder of the world, physically beautiful, self-sufficient and wealthy. Instead, it is backward, poor and divided. This is not all Israel’s fault, but its existence has contributed significantly to the Arabs’ decline, and ignoring Israel’s role in the story would be misleading.
Yup, the existence of a few million Jews in a tiny sliver of land amongst a billion Arabs encompassing a large part of two continents obviously would contribute significantly to the Arab world's decline. Makes perfect sense!
The devastating and continuing effects of Israel’s establishment on the Palestinians are well documented, but they were not alone in paying the price for Israel’s creation. The Arab world was transformed by its imposition. No other event there since world war one has been so cataclysmic. There has not been a decade since 1948 when Israel has not been in combat with its neighbours. This has damaged the political process in the Arab world, which has come to depend on its army generals for leadership and to admire military strength and violence.
So it is Israel that forced the Arab world to admire military strength and violence! Ah, so!
The UN’s Arab Human Development Report in 2002, which revealed the extent of the Arabs’ retardation, was clear that Israel’s occupation had affected the region’s political and economic life, and that the Arab-Israeli conflict was “a major impediment to human development in the region”.
I took the liberty to download the actual report, and, believe it or not, that phrase does not appear at all! While the UN is harsh on Israeli "occupation" as always, the bulk of the report deals with Arabs' self-inflicted problems, not any perceived problems from without.

This is hardly surprising. The Arab states, struggling with post-independence when Israel was established, should have focused on their own political and social development. Instead, the frontline states were dragged into wars that diverted their resources into armaments and surveillance. After each defeat, they were forced to re-arm ever more extravagantly.
Oh, how they were forced to arm! Who can forget the Israeli threats to throw the Arabs into the Euphrates and Tigris? This borders being farcical.

Arab military spending in the late 1990s accounted for 7.4% of GNP (three times the world average of 2.4%). Since then it has grown by an annual 5%. As Israel acquired sophisticated arms from the United States, Arab states were pushed into trying to keep up at increasing expense, although the arms the Arabs bought from the US and Britain needed the sellers’ technical assistance for operation. These sales were thus designed to benefit western arms industries rather than help the Arab states protect themselves against aggression.

The continuing conflict has discouraged foreign and domestic investment in Arab states and led to a migration of skilled labour, further impoverishing local economies; in particular, it has exhausted and weakened the frontline states. Their economies have been grossly distorted towards militarisation at the expense of social and economic development. In 2002 average Arab expenditure on health and education combined was only 3.7% of GNP. Yet the Arabs had no choice but to militarise against what they saw as an expansionist Israel bent on taking their land. Israel did not set its borders with Egypt until the 1979 peace treaty and has still not done so with Syria or Lebanon.
The projection here is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

But beyond the idiotic reversal of facts, the author doesn't seem to recognize that Israel was forced to militarize itself on a per-capita basis far beyond that the Arabs were "forced" to do, and still Israel enjoyed a booming economy, outside investment, an influx of skilled laborers and thinkers, and it didn't abandon social services and internal development.

In other words, Israelis have no reason to write whiny articles like this blaming every problem on everybody else.

The rest of the article is more of the same, but it is another great indication of how little Arabs have the capability to self-criticize when they have an easy Jewish scapegoat next door.

And the author?
Ghada Karmi is Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, and author, most recently, of Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine (Pluto Press, London and Ann Arbor, 2007).
She is of course one of those Arabs who willingly left the Middle East - no doubt because of Israeli pressure!