Monday, August 11, 2014

Innocence, Justice and the One Sided War

These days pictures of demolished buildings, dead and severely hurt children, men and women mourning have filled the Internet channels.  Videos of the anguished calling for revenge, justice, or revenge and justice, on behalf of these "innocent" children, women and the elderly pop up everywhere.  Those who post these gut wrenching images are in a race with each other to post more and appeal to their friends and their circles to repost and find more to share. In posting these images zealous among them are the radical Islamists and the leftists in the U.S. and Europe.

There are demonstrations demanding "Justice" for the Palestinians and asking for protection of the "innocent" women and children against Israel's bombings and incursions into Gaza. There is an increasing outcry that there is no justice in this "one sided war". There are hundreds of buildings that are demolished in Gaza compared to a few that are damaged in Israel. There are hundreds of dead "Innocent" children, women and elderly and thousands injured in Gaza because of Israel's "aggression" while there are only a few buildings in Israel that have been damaged by the Hamas rockets and "only" a few are dead and injured. In most narratives the adjective for Israelis is "only" but for the Palestinians is "innocent". One can wonder, is it the number of casualties and the destruction which determines the "innocence" on one side and the "aggression" on the other. In that case Germans were the "innocent" and the Allies were the "aggressor" during WWII, a funny proposition at the least.

The arguments of the Radical Islamists and their leftist supporters were my reasoning a couple of decades back. I supported the Islamic radicals against "imperialism" and the Palestinians against "Zionist" Israel, until the experience of the "Islamic" revolution in Iran, which I fully experienced for ten years from its inception and since then have been observing it from afar, brought me back to my senses.

The adjectives "innocence", "Justice" and a "one-sided war" are designed to heighten our abhorrence of the killed and injured children. Our psyche is hard wired to feel revulsion from those scenes. We are pre-programmed to have empathy with the mourning women and men, irrespective of the circumstances. So it is not a surprise that the initial response to the images circulating in the media and particularly on the Internet has generated a somewhat broad condemnation of Israel's actions.

Seeing the pictures of bloodied limp children is devastating to one's psyche. It is unbearable to see little girls and boys shocked from fear. Islamic Radicals have made a profession of distributing and redistributing of these images, some even doctored, with the sole purpose of nurturing hatred in themselves and whomever they could reach. This is exactly the way Islamic radicals want you to see the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The fact is that there are no words to soothe the suffering of all those children. There is nothing one can say to reduce the revulsion one feels from seeing and learning about those sufferings. But for a true democrat to view this conflict from the angle of one's emotions only plays into the hands of the Islamic radicals who have dominated the political scene in the Middle East at the moment.

Depending on if you are looking at children from an earthly or heavenly perspective, the fact remains that children are neither "guilty" or "innocent" and they are neither "sinful" or "innocent". Children are just children and it is gut wrenching to see them hurt and our immediate impulse is to reach to them when they need help. At the same time we know or we should know that children are first and foremost at the mercy of their parents and second at the disposal of the society they live in. They can be raised as democrats, in science, art and literature or raised as tribal appendages in superstition and religion. Hamas and to a large extent the whole Middle East is on the latter course. Children of Palestine are canon fodder for Hamas and other Islamic radicals of the Middle East for a project to wipe out the only democratic enclave in that region of the world, Israel. The extension of that project is the creation of a pan-Arab, and further an Islamic empire. They are all far fetched but we are witnessing the destructive nature of this drive in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Palestine and in a modified version in Iran.

These facts alone limit our reach to those children and what we are faced with is the confrontation with the regressive and backward forces of our times, the radical Islamists. The struggle between backwardness on the one hand and the democracy and the modern state on the other. Those in the West who are the beneficiaries of the modernity and the learned in the Middle East who are aspiring for democracy, when you try to ignore this plain fact or try to subvert this fact you are playing in the hands of Hamas and their Islamic radical cohorts.

Hamas, Islamists and the leftists claim that Israel is a "settler state" and this state is the product of more than 1.5 million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe who moved to Israel. The best of these radicals argue further, that if all those Jews moved back and the displaced Palestinians moved back in to the present land of Israel then there will be peace in the Middle East with an Arab majority and some Jews at their mercy. This might sound very reasonable until one looks at himself or herself then it does not look all that reasonable. We are all migrants or descendants of immigrants. All present societies are formed from migration and confrontations because of those migrations, beginning with the migration of the homo sapiens from Africa to Europe displacing Neanderthals some 30,000 years ago. Let me say it again, all of our societies are products of migrations. There are over 1.5 million Arabs living in the U.S. there are no hue and cry about that. There are more than 2 million Iranians who are living in the U.S. there are no protests about it. There are millions and millions of Moslems from the Middle East and beyond who are living in the U.S. and Europe.

From my perspective if the polkadot people of Mars migrated to earth and created a viable democracy in the Middle East, a true democrat would have to support the polkadot democratic state. The first democratic state in the ME happened to be created by the Jews and it should be supported.

There are additional facts. Jews are not aliens from Mars, they always have been part of the landscape of the ME. All of the Jews in Israel were not recent migrants, there were Jews already living there, in what is now Israel. In addition during the conflicts some 800,000 Jews were expelled or migrated from other parts of the ME. So the Jews are not strangers to the neighborhood.

These migrations by the Jews to what they perceive as their ancestral land did create frictions which led to several wars. These wars were led by the Arab countries with the aim of wiping the Jews out of the area. But for the true democrats that meant the annihilation of the first democratic state in the ME, a totally unacceptable proposition. This is the notion that the learned Muslims of the ME have not understood and they are struggling with this fact that the first democratic state in the ME was created by the Jews and these intellectuals of the ME have failed to create any duplicate. As a matter of fact the Arab spring so far has ended in drives for autocratic religious states. It means that the Muslims along with their learned have failed to modernize and their wish for the destruction of Israel only augments their failure.

Another fact is that through the defeat of the Arab armies, Israel took control of more land, this is true. But this is what happens during wars, victors gain land and get the upper hand and the vanquished lose land. There is a set of maps circulating through the Internet which shows the expansion of Israel through the years since 1948. What is missing from those maps is that each stage of expansion corresponds to a major conflict, with a military drive to push the Jews into the sea and each ended with the defeat of the Arab armies.  In this conflict for a true democrat to count the number of bullets, bombs or casualties is meaningless. What is important is that the first democratic state in the ME has survived and it is one of the most vibrant economies in the world today.

Another fact is that the victories of this first democratic state in ME, Israel, continuously has eroded the pan-Arab dream of defeating Israel and today the active supporters of this dream are the most radical segments of the Arab and Muslim societies and more than ever they are getting politically isolated. In the present military conflict between Hamas and Israel, Hamas is losing more political ground. The pushback against Hamas probably will prepare the ground for a two state solution and undermine the rightist elements within Israel who do not want a resolution to this conflict and benefit from pointing to Hamas. Any setback to these backward forces in the Middle East only brightens the prospect for democracy in the ME for all Arabs and Muslims.

One other fact is the Palestinians aspiration for an identity.  This aspiration has been generated from being squeezed by Israel's establishment as a state and their rejection from other Arab states.  They still live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.  Can you imagine Arabs living in refugee camps for decades in Europe or in the U.S.  The borders between Palestine and Egypt or Jordan is tighter than the borders between Israel and the Palestinian areas.  In another word what we hear as Palestinians is really the leftover population of the Arab countries war with Israel who were left to fend for themselves and continuously encouraged to carry the dream of wiping out Israel.  Does this reality make Palestinians a non-entity. Obviously not, the wars that the Arab countries waged against Israel created this Palestinian entity. The Palestinian cause needs a solution and their plight is real.  At the same time this need of the Palestinians has not freed itself from that original drive to destroy Israel.  A set back to Islamic Radicals will bring Palestinians closer to their own state.  They cannot reach it without a struggle, and this struggle will have to direct itself against some ambitious politics within Israel, but if it is directed against the state of Israel as is the case with Hamas any true democrat should distance himself from it.

What is the state of democracy in Israel? Is this conflict putting pressures on the democracy within Israel? Definitely, those pressures exist. Many who could not realize their dream of the demise of Israel on the battlefield are pointing to the rising "rightist" politics within Israel as a sign of their new prediction for Israel to fall apart, this time from within. The leftists of the Western societies echo this wish in different formats. What they miss is that the experience of the last 250 years points out that once democracy takes hold in a society, stresses from the internal or external conflicts could and will tilt the society to extremes but uprooting democracy is almost impossible. Look at the U.S. history, the country went through civil war, extended period of Jim Crow laws in the South, First and Second world war and with each episode democratic institutions were stressed but ultimately the society righted itself up.

So far this prolonged conflict is showing signs of all kinds of stress within Israel, some reflected in the "rightist" politics, but the fundamental democratic institutions within Israel, most important among them freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom to write, has not frayed. This should be heartwarming to a true democrat in the ME who is aspiring for his turn to establish democracy in his society, for the ability to think, express and write freely.

Considering these fundamental facts, a true democrat would appreciate the fact that this is a one-sided war and would root for the military superiority of Israel. The superiority of democracy is exactly just. It is just, as the superiority of the U.S. against Fascism was just and its present superiority over ISIS, Islamic jihadists of Syria and Iraq, is just.

It has been said that the resolution of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is pivotal in the politics of the Middle East. For decades that could have been the case for the short term interests of the strong state politics, but more and more it is clear that the fate of democracy in the ME is pivotal on the recognition and the defense of the first democratic state in the ME, Israel. The learned of the Middle East have missed this point for years and they have been played like a violin by the backward Islamic forces. In this respect General Sisi of Egypt as far away as he is from democracy, he is yet closer to democracy than all the learned of the ME who oppose Israel in various guises. In that respect Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as far away as he was from democracy, he was closer to democracy than all my leftist comrades who cry out for "humanity" in this conflict. Intellectuals and the leftists of Iran punched the air with their fists for democracy, "socialist" democracy, but sided with the most backward Islamist forces in Iran.  The line of demarcation was and is the recognition of Israel.  If you cannot recognize democracy when you see it, you will probably never have it. It is about time to relearn democracy.

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