Friday, August 1, 2014

Are Hamas Attacks a Catalyst For Acceptance of Israel?

For the first time in almost 70 years, Israel has the active backing of nearly all Arab states in its battle against Palestinian extremists.  One long time CNN reporter called the support "unprecedented" and speculated that it could represent a new era in Middle Eastern relations.  Moderate governments fear extremism more than they wish to nurture historical hatreds.

The process of breaking down the walls of anti-Semitic diplomacy is nothing new, however.

In the beginning, Israel faced enemies on every side.  The British evacuated the old Roman named territory of Palestine in 1948.  The United States, followed quickly by the Soviet Union, recognized the new state almost immediately.  President Harry Truman later recalled that he had resolved that "the United States would do all that it could to help the Jews set up a homeland."  In this, he went against the "striped pants boys" advice at the State Department.  Truman believed that Israel had very strong potential for development.

All bordering states, however, pledged themselves to Israel's destruction.  Since then, both time and the ago old maxim of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" have started to soften the old hate filled viewpoints.

Despite repeated wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the 1960s and 70s, Israel had one friend in the Middle East.  Iran under the Shah.

Iran's monarch served as a pole of power within the Middle East, navigating between the Arab states, the United States, and Iran's neighbor the Soviet Union.  Repeated Soviet and Czarist Russian attempts to absorb some or all Iranian territory meant Iran would support US interests through much of the Cold War.

Many Americans mistrusted professions of friendship. Shah adviser Asadollah Alam remembered columnist Joseph Kraft coming to Iran in 1976 at the request of several senators.  "Apparently the senators who were here recently disbelieved the US ambassador's stories about close relations between Iran and Israel," Alam noted.  Under the Shah, Iran pursued its self-interests of building national strength and wealth alongside American priorities.  Productive relations with Israel enhanced those bonds and gave Iran some leverage when it did disagree with the US over issues such as oil production.

In the 1970s, nationalist authoritarians and monarchs led most Arab states.  At the time, the nationalists seemed radical.  They linked American influence to the real and imagined sins of the old British Empire. Israel, an oil free haven of liberty and prosperity, had to remain a whipping boy to corrupt regimes with little freedom and much economic misery.

But that decade also brought revolutionary violence.  The formerly nationalist radicals now saw Islamic revolutionaries and Palestinian terrorists disrupting order in the region.  Another pillar of the anti-Israel gang fell away.  President Jimmy Carter brought Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin to the United States to hammer out normal relations.

Sadat helped to open the conference by saying "I hope the spirit of King David will prevail at Camp David."  In a sense it did.  David's reign over Israel was often contentious and occasionally messy, but overall succeeded tremendously.  Similarly, Begin and Sadat bickered for 13 days, but found common ground in the end.

For the next 40 years, however, the anti-Israel front remained almost in stasis.  It neither overtly threatened nor worked to reconcile with Israel, regardless of whether or not negotiations with Palestinian groups went well or poorly.  Anti-Semitism remained unofficially and sometimes officially endorsed. The Anti Defamation League notes that "Anti-Semitism often serves as a political device intended to undermine normalization with Israel."  Even Egyptian media joins other Middle Eastern states in promoting points from the Russian secret police forgery Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

 The Hamas attacks on Israel this summer come in a different context.  With ISIS/ISIL expanding its murderous control over parts of Iraq and Syria, with Turkey moving in a direction closer to its medieval Ottoman past rather than secular democracy, with Muslim Brotherhood and associated terrorist groups threatening moderate national governments, many governments now shy away from indiscriminate support of Palestinians against Israel.  Eric Trager of the Washington Institute For Near East Policy told CNN "The Arab Spring showed the region that uprisings can lead to the Brotherhood gaining power.  So it's a threat to the governments it opposes"

Also, no one expects Hamas to stay quietly within the boundaries agreed to.  The Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo reported on the contents of a Hamas terror handbook that included television shrapnel bombs and how to use donkeys as mobile device carriers.

Kredo also notes the war for public opinion, which dupes outlets such as BBC and others into sympathetic coverage. "Anyone killed is to be called a civilian of Gaza or Palestine" regardless of their military rank or "role in the jihad."  It also encourages the tactic of talking about martyrs in the Middle East, about wounded or dead to Westerners.

Although the public relations strategy has swayed some in the Western media, it has not blinded many in the Middle East to the fact that the new Islamic radicalism has the potential to overrun many countries and impose its terrifying brand of totalitarianism.

And also that Israel is a capable ally, or at least the enemy of their enemy, against that fate.

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