Israelis may protest against each other but the message to its enemies is we are here to stay
By Yair Chelouche and David E. Kaplan
In his political treatise – ‘The Prince’ – Renaissance political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, addressed the question whether for a ruler:
“It is better to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both.”
This may have been in the back of the mind of Saudi Arabian journalist and novelist Abdullah bin Bakheet when in the Saudi daily Okaz (June 15), he wrote:
“Arabs in the region have accepted Israel’s power, they have not yet accepted its right to exist.”
Israel, celebrating its 75th birthday this year, is still unable to capture, never mind the hearts but even Arab acceptance of the “right to exist”.
Israelis may be more divided today than at any time in its history but they are solidly united on their right to a Jewish state on the sliver of turf that is our ancestral homeland.
We may fiercely argue amongst ourselves on the character of the state – as the vigorous protests now into their 27th week clearly demonstrates – but on the very existence of a Jewish state there is no argument.
The question the Saudi journalist then grapples with is if Israel can transcend being ‘acknowledged’ solely as a powerhouse that Arabs endure like an incurable disease to being truly accepted as an integral cultural component of the Middle East mosaic?
Bakheet tackles this conundrum by posing the question of whether the Middle East holds any “cultural connotations that could unite peoples, and what is the cultural foundation that could allow for coexistence between the peoples of the Middle East and Israel?”
While the Arab world stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean “encompass many political entities” it is bound together in “a single cultural bloc” enjoying a “shared cultural identity”. This is evidenced “in the likenesses of their language, faith, history, literature, customs, traditions, and aspirations,” which clearly to Bakheet must thus exclude Israel. He cites as examples the book fairs of Beirut, Cairo, Medina, Riyadh, Kuwait, Marrakesh, Amman, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi that “display similar authors, while musical compositions from Damascus evoke joy in the people of Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, the Gulf, Palestine.” Again, he reasons, Israel has no part in this.
Adding that “a fatwa issued in Cairo resonates throughout the entire region,” Bakheet asserts that “these undeniable similarities demonstrate the unified culture of the Arab world,” leaving Israel as the odd man out; a foreign import unable to genuinely integrate into the region. For the Jewish state to achieve some modus vivendi in this Arab milieu, Israel can only depend on the US to coerce or influence Arab countries to make an effort to accept the presence of Israel. He arrives at this conclusion because Israel is otherwise unable “to exist in a world with which it is otherwise unconnected.”
To Bakheet’s line of thinking, there is the natural Arab world and then there is the unnatural Israel, discounting thousands of years of Jewish history.
FROM CAMELS TO PENGUINS
How negative the collective mindset of Israel is in the Arab world is captured in Bakheet’s ‘animal’ type perspective below, which is both illuminating and alarming. He describes Israel’s presence in the Middle East under the protection of the USA:
“… like transferring a herd of camels to the Arctic, providing them with a tight reserve in which to live, severing any relationship with the outside world. As long as the camels are provided with appropriate protection, they can survive, although they must remain within their dedicated reserve until they are either repatriated or transformed into penguins.”
Israelis for Bakheet are a people confined, under protection and subject to consequences if we step “off the reservation”.
To Abdullah bin Bakheet and his ilk and whoever else shares his mindset, I would respond with the profound message of Israel’s illustrious Foreign Minister, Abba Eban that:
“Israels’ future will be longer than its past”
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