Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hope / No Hope

From Michael Totten's blog...I thought this tale represented a tiny, tiny light of hope in the darkness that has enveloped the Middle East, and is spreading West:

Seeing Israel and Palestine for myself as they really are makes me slightly more hopeful than I was before I got there. The standard narrative of the conflict is a cartoon. Upon closer inspection, it’s a lot more complicated. And it’s a lot more interesting, too.

The Druze serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. And the Druze are as Arab as anyone else in the region. The biggest problem the Israeli government has with Druze members of the IDF is not that they are not loyal. The biggest problem is that they are consistently the most roguish and brutal toward Palestinians. They speak Arabic as their first language. Palestinians say they are traitors.

Bedouin also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. T he skills they learn as desert wanderers make them the perfect trackers.
Don’t assume the only reason Bedouin work with the Israelis is because they are loyal to the state they happen to live in, as may (or may not) be the case with the Druze. The tight relationship between Israeli Jews and Bedouin Arabs crosses international borders.
Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.
“Why?” I said. “Did they learn it during the occupation?” Israel seized the Sinai from Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967 and gave it back when Anwar Sadat agreed to a peace treaty.
“No,” she said. “They wanted to learn Hebrew so they can talk to us when we go down and visit.”
“When you go down there and visit?” I did not know what she was talking about.
“Last year 200,000 Israelis visited the Bedouin during Passover," she said.
“Two hundred thousand,” I said. “On just one day?”
“You didn’t know about this?” she said.
“No,” I said. Before I went to the Middle East I had no idea Israeli Jews had any kind of genuinely friendly relations with Arabs in any country except right-wing Lebanese Maronites. And a significant number of Maronites say they aren't even Arabs at all.
“The Bedouin roll our joints for us,” she said. “They sell us hashish. Israeli women like to go topless.”
“You go topless in front of the Bedouin?” I said. “Isn’t that offensive?” Bedouin are arguably the most conservative people in the entire Middle East.
“It doesn’t bother them,” she said. “ They understand that our cultures are different. They don’t impose their values on us. And I never once saw a Bedouin man with wandering eyes.”

It made sense once I thought about it. Bedouin may be Egyptian Arabs, but they are completely isolated from Hosni Mubarak’s deranged state-run media. They could not care less about the politics of the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. No one ever told them they are supposed to hate Jews. When politics can be pitched over the side, Israeli Jews and at least some Arab Muslims have a natural affinity for one another and they get along great.

“They are our brothers,” she said.

I like that..without someone (in this case, vicious Arab states) teaching Muslims to hate Jews; these longtime neighbors congregate in business and commerce.
But dictatorships rarely deal in friendships and truths; which brings me to a second view of the region, an absolutely pessemistic one which underlines the cultural divide between East and West. At The Gates of Vienna, they analzye commentary From The Autonomist blog; we get this:

Muslims... have developed, to an amazing extent, the ability to deceive. And it is that ability that confounds their environmental competitors (you and me) the most. These types of organisms -- “lie-in-wait” predators -- must know the full range of behaviors of the organisms they wish to defeat, so as to position themselves correctly for the strike. They are not necessarily strong or powerful, so they must know what frightens, arouses, lures, relaxes, and weakens that which they intend to destroy. For the Muslim, the idea is to exploit our greatest vulnerability -- PC thinking.

They hone these deceptive traits by practicing on themselves, first and foremost, by perfecting the art that most Westerners would call “lying.” But to them it’s not really lying. To them, lying is simply the most effective means at their disposal for saving face, being clever, getting ahead, and trying to appear superior. Remember, deception is the Muslim’s most developed trait; their secret weapon. Its constant exercise is not a matter of shame, it’s a matter of pride.

…in the Middle East, there is no such thing as an Agreement. Whether a verbal commitment or a look straight in the eye or firm handshake or even a written contract, these things here are worth next to nothing. Rather than organizing or finalizing anything, these acts merely serve as a continuation of the struggle by one party to screw the other party more than they plan on getting screwed themselves. Accomplishing a given task, taking pride in one’s work, achieving competence, and even basic concepts of economic gain through mutual trade, take a far back seat to the massive satisfaction gained by getting something more out of someone else then they get from you.

This gets a little rough, but I will reprint nevertheless:

Let’s take a quiz:
Q: Why are there no democracies in the Muslim Middle East?
A: Democracies are based on the possibility of mutually held Agreements between people. Democracy is unsustainable in cultures where lying is acceptable and constant.
Q: Why is every Muslim Middle Eastern country characterized by either rigid oppression or chaotic violence?
A: The coercive use of violence is the only way to ensure Muslims in the Middle East will live up to any obligations, including basic social order and function. Middle East countries where chaos currently reigns, like Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, are merely examples of what Muslims are like without coercion.

So which model is the talisman that calls the future for the Arab/Muslim world? The Bedouin, cheerfully working with their Israeli neghbors for fun and profit; or the decieving Arab, where satisfaction can only be attained by utter control and victory.

Hope? Or no hope at all?

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