Dear Israelis, Get over your phobias, and maybe you can still work things out. Sincerely, Prof Dov

Israel’s Demophobia by Dov Waxman | The Middle East Channel


It is time for Israelis to realize that not all Islamist groups are the same. While they are all deeply and maybe implacably opposed to Israel, they are not all willing to take up arms against the Jewish state, and some may be reluctantly willing to co-exist with it. 

A democratic Egypt, therefore, will not abrogate the peace treaty or go to war with Israel. But, Egyptian policy toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bound to change.  The Mubarak regime’s policy, which essentially amounted to acquiescence to Israel’s continued occupation and settlement of Palestinian territories, was deeply unpopular among Egyptians. It struck them as fundamentally immoral and as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. A reversal of this policy is surely inevitable. 

This is likely to mean an end to Egypt’s cooperation in maintaining Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, and quite possibly a refusal to continue to support the charade of a peace process between Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. How bad would this be for Israel? That really depends on what Israel you’re talking about. It’s certainly bad for ‘Greater Israel,’ that is, an Israel that continues to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem and keep the Gaza Strip under siege. But if Israel is willing to end its counter-productive stranglehold on Gaza, stop expanding Jewish settlements, and begin real peace negotiations with the Palestinians-as opposed to pretending to negotiate while simultaneously undermining those negotiations through continued land grabs-then a democratically elected Egyptian government would face a lot less public pressure to oppose Israeli policies.

Israelis should not assume the enmity of the Egyptian public. Although this undoubtedly exists, it is more the product of anger and frustration over Israel’s actions, past and present, towards the Palestinians than the product of ideology or theology (it has also been stoked by the Mubarak regime itself which allowed virulently anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic ideas and beliefs to be widely disseminated in Egyptian popular culture). As the recent mass protests demonstrated, Egyptians have largely discarded the ideologies of the past-Arab socialism, pan-Arabism, even Islamism-in favor of concrete and pragmatic political and economic demands. This is also true when it comes to their foreign policy attitudes. These attitudes are influenced less by fiery demagogues than by what they watch on TV (especially the popular Arab satellite channels) and read in the newspaper. Accustomed to graphic images of Israeli violence and stories of Palestinian suffering, is it any wonder that Egyptians stridently oppose Israel?

Instead of immediately dismissing Arab public opinion in Egypt and elsewhere as hopelessly and unremittingly anti-Israeli, Israeli Jews should recognize that what Israel does – not simply what it is – shapes public opinion in the Arab world, and in the rest of the world too for that matter. Rather than desperately hope that somehow the rising tide of democratic change in the Middle East can be held in check, Israelis need to seriously think about how they can improve their relations with Egyptians and other Arab publics.  To be sure, this will not be easy to do. Egyptians, like Arabs across the Middle East and beyond, have a very negative view of Israel and of Israeli Jews. More than anything else, Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories is responsible for this (but it is not the only factor). By ending the Occupation, therefore, Israelis can make peace with the Palestinians and finally begin to really make peace with Egyptians as well. 

Unfortunately, Israelis now seem to be drawing the opposite conclusion. The political upheavals and turmoil in the region are regarded by many as yet another reason not to carry out any risky territorial withdrawals in the future. They are pining their hopes on the military maintaining power in Egypt, whether openly or behind the scenes, and other pro-Western authoritarian regimes weathering the storm of protest they are now facing.  

Whether or not real democratization will soon take place in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, Israelis are counting on an unstable and ultimately doomed political order in the region. The era of Arab autocracy is coming to end and the era of Arab democracy is beginning. In this new era, Israel must make peace with the people of the Middle East, not just with their autocratic rulers. Only by doing so can Israelis truly achieve the security and acceptance they still long for. 


Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

5 comments on “Dear Israelis, Get over your phobias, and maybe you can still work things out. Sincerely, Prof Dov

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins