The New Middle East

By Louis Rene Beres
Professor, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

The New Middle East resembles The New World Order. It does not exist. It can never exist. It will never exist. What is more, to believe that it does or will exist is conceivably very dangerous, as such a belief could generate policies built upon sand.

Israel, of course - or at least its current government - believes in The New Middle East. It builds not only its foreign policy, but its very existence, upon this particular bit of fiction. Not surprisingly, unless it is turned around in time, Israel, like The New Middle East, will not exist. Here, the Jewish State, wedded to a government for which fantasy is de rigueur, would dissolve into the centuries. Exeunt omnes!

On February 15th, Arieh Stav, one of Israel's most gifted intellectuals and editor of the distinguished publication NATIV, will open an exhibition titled "The Peace - An Arab Cartoon." To be displayed in Be'er Sheva for a month, this exhibition - tied to Stav's very important new book -will reveal some salient features of Peres' New Middle East. In this utopian universe of the Prime Minister, as we will learn from Arab cartoons, the Jew is demonized in ways that might have made Julius Streicher blush. Indeed, if one were to extrapolate present Arab attitudes toward Israel from their officially sanctioned drawings, we would see little difference between The New Middle East and the world of Der Sturmer.

The New Middle East is The Old Middle East. In 1972 Yehoshafat Harkabi published a major book titled ARAB ATTITUDES TO ISRAEL. At that time, in the days of The Old Middle East, Harkabi cited the Arab use of scurrilous language about Israel to include "the Zionist monster;" "the Zionist plague;" "the purulent abscess;" "the illegitimate daughter of Europe;" "a cancer in the heart of the Arab nation;" "the Zionist cancer;" "the gang of hypocrites and criminals;" "the focus of evil;" "dirt;" "filth;" "sewage;" "the octopus;" "the spider;" "the bacillus of evil;" etc, etc, etc. Today, as Stav's brilliant exhibition will reveal, nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed.

Let us return to the Nazis. As objects of their propaganda, Jews were notorious because they allegedly devalued German life, threatened its "racial purity," and threatened its very physical survival. Hence, the Jews were "pests," "parasites," "bloodsuckers," "child murderers," "molesters," etc, who exploited "real Germans," despoiled "Aryan" purity and, of course, always conspired to acquire power. These are precisely the same themes adapted by Arab propagandists against Israel, in The Old Middle East and in The New Middle East.

In The New Middle East, King Hussein is generally regarded as Israel's "warmest peace partner." On January 28 1996, the King announced that he favors the creation of a Palestinian state under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, and that Jerusalem must be the capital of the new state of Palestine. Curiously, this announcement - uttered in The New Middle East - is vastly more hostile to Israeli survival than anything he had ever announced during The Old Middle East.

Shimon Peres, the creator of The New Middle East, is - like his creation - a phantom that has worn out its shadow. By refashioning truth, the Prime Minister has transformed his considerable conceptual deficits into a shadowy new faith. Profoundly superficial, without any sensibility for the intrinsic, Peres now offers a vision for Israel that undermines Zionism's already precarious future. Before anything resembling a New Middle East could be born from the Old, a gravedigger would have to wield the forceps.

Diderot, in his political writings (Histoire des Deux Indes) describes the history of civilization: "The history of civilised man has been only the history of his misery. Every page has been covered in blood, some with the blood of oppressors, others with the blood of the oppressed." Failing to understand this, visionaries arise in every generation who wish to transcend human misery without first making the essential human changes. Thus, they focus incorrectly on structures of human governance and economics rather than upon the beings who must ultimately make these structures work. In the end, such incorrect reasoning must always lead to disappointment and to despair.

In The New Middle East, as in The Old Middle East, Israel's Arab and Islamic enemies remain committed to ridding the region of all Jews, to making The New Middle East judenrein. As long as this does not change, there is no point in pretending that there are overriding political/economic interests or systemwide commitments to "peace." In politics, as in every other sphere of human activity, all things move in the midst of death, and where death of "the other" is all important there can be no reasonable talk of life.

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Louis Rene Beres is a Professor, Department of Political Science, Purdue University.

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