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September 5, 2006


Filed under: Eurabia, Global Jihad, Islam, Israel, Left, Mellemøsten, Multi Kulti, Terror — limewoody @ 3:47 pm

ISRAEL’S war with Hezbollah in Leba non has aroused not just great anger in the Arab world, but also great hope – hope that Israel can be defeated.

“We had given up on the military option. We believed this belonged to history,” Hani Hourani, director general of the Al-Urdun Al-Jadid (“New Jordan”) Research Center, told me the other day in his office. “By taking the initiative, Hezbollah created a new way of thinking about the whole conflict in the region: Israel is not that invincible. It could be beaten. It could be harmed.”

“Even people like me, the moderate people, who never liked or supported Hezbollah, we began to think twice about how we were wrong,” Hourani said. “Hezbollah, even if we don’t agree with its ideology, was suggesting a different option to the Arab people.”

Renewed optimism about confronting Israel by force of arms isn’t limited to the anti-Western masses. It’s growing among the Arab world’s moderates, who share the view that Israel is a colonialist and Western imposition on the region.

“This month-long war changed an entire generation,” Samir Barhoum, editor of the Jordan Times, an English-language daily, told me. “Hezbollah is a legitimate resistance group fighting occupation.”

Why are Arabs with business and political ties to the West, and even to Israel, jumping on the Hezbollah bandwagon? Because their moderation derives not so much from an acceptance of the Jews’ historical right to a homeland in the Middle East, but from the Arabs’ repeated inability to defeat Israel – shown in a series of crushing defeats like the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel held off invading Arab armies and captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt.

Such wars led states like Egypt and Jordan to conclude that they could not defeat Israel, and they signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. “I think the ’67 [war] laid the groundwork for a major shift in our thinking,” said Mustafa Hamarneh, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan.

But if Israel can be beaten, then the whole equation changes. In our meeting not long after the Lebanon ceasefire, Hamarneh talked of how the Israelis behaved like Nazis in Lebanon, how Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert represents “the other side of Osama bin Laden” and how the Jews “stole the land” from the Arabs in 1948, when Israel was founded.

Moderation may be giving way to the hope that the clock in the Middle East can be turned back not just to 1967 – before Israel controlled the Golan Heights and West Bank – but to 1948, when Israel did not exist.

“The Arabs want the 1967 border for the moment – listen to me: for the moment,” said Abdel Mahdi Al- Soudi, a sociology professor at the University of Jordan. “This will change.” The Arabs may sign peace treaties, Al-Soudi said, but “nobody will sign on to end the conflict. Nobody will sign something saying Israel will be Israel forever.”

After my meeting with al-Soudi on campus, I ran into a group of Arab students eager to share their views on the Jewish state. “Israel is not justified. It is something put in the whole Arab world to serve the colonial powers,” explained one, Omar al-Hinfi. His solution is to dismantle Israel and give its land to the Palestinians, sending the Jews “back” to Poland and Germany.

“Israel is a cancer in the region,” chimed in S. Samara, a Palestinian from the West Bank.

It is this lack of acceptance of Israel, not Israeli actions or its disputes with the Palestinians, that perpetuates this endless conflict. Until the Arab world accepts Israel’s place on this small strip of land, this conflict will not end.

Uriel Heilman is a Jerusalem correspondent for JTA News Service.


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