Friday, November 25, 2005

Delusions of a people under siege

Jews should not blame themselves for the hostility shown by others toward them and the Jewish state, nor should they delude themselves that it is something they can influence or control, argues the psychiatrist Kenneth Levin in this must-read interview with Front page magazine. Moreover, Arab Jew-hatred should be seen in the context of the victimisation of all non-Arab and non-Muslim minorities of the region.

"It serves Jews badly to think of their own plight as unique and not to recognize other victims. Certainly, Jews have been more than sensitive to the victimization of others, including those subjected to the extremity of genocidal assault; yet there remain areas of myopia in drawing political conclusions from assaults on others.

"For example, many Jews are aware of the intense Jew-hatred that has for decades been promoted in media, mosques and schools throughout the Arab world. But a general assumption is that it has all been due to the conflict with Israel and will be resolved by a" land for peace" agreement, particularly between the Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps once again Jews' reluctance to see their predicament in the context of larger forces reflects a wish to view themselves as more in control of their predicament than they actually are. But there is a larger pattern. For in reality virtually all the minorities living amid the Arab nations have been under siege, with a number suffering much worse depredations than the Jews of Israel.

"Christian communities are almost everywhere under intense pressure. Egypt, the most cosmopolitan of Arab states and run by a secular government, has long required its large Coptic Christian community, numbering perhaps ten million, to live with onerous restrictions; even renovation or addition to a church needs approval at the ministerial level. Pressures applied to Christian communities have led to high rates of Christian emigration from nations throughout the Arab world. Of course, in Saudi Arabia no citizen can be a Christian, Christian prayer is officially forbidden, and conversion from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death.

"The most horrific assault on Christians in the Arab world has been the decades-long campaign of enslavement, rape and murder waged against the Christian blacks of the southern Sudan. Begun virtually with Sudan's independence in the 1950s, the attacks and the killing have proceeded under both secular and Islamist regimes and have claimed more than two million lives –– one of the worst acts of genocide since World War II. Khartoum's murderous policies have consistently had the backing of its brother Arab states, some of which have lent active support to Khartoum's assault on the south.

"But even the longstanding denigration of and attacks upon Jews and Christians do not fully encompass the victimization of minorities by the Arab Muslim nations of the Middle East and North Africa; in addition to the assaults on non-Muslims, there is a targeting of those who may be fellow Muslims but are also non-Arabs.

"In Iraq, Saddam Hussein pursued the forced expulsion and mass murder of Kurds living in Iraq's north, killing some 200,000 before he was distracted by his adventure in Kuwait, and he did so without criticism from his fellow Arab leaders. In Algeria, the Muslim but non-Arab Berber population did more than its share of the fighting against the French in the war of independence; but, with independence won, the Arab-dominated government embarked on a campaign of forced "Arabization" of Berber communities. In addition, since the outbreak of an Islamist versus secular civil war in Algeria in 1992, the largely secularized Berbers have been particular targets not only of the Algerian government but also of the Islamist rebels, who have wrought widespread carnage in the country. The people of Darfur –– Muslim, but black –– now being raped and murdered by the Sudanese government with the support of other Arab nations are only the latest example of Arab assaults on non-Arab Muslim populations living within the Arab world.

"This chronic pattern of Arab intolerance and aggression on both religious and ethnic levels has implications for the Jews. It is noteworthy, for example, that none of the populations that have been subjected to murderous, at times genocidal, assault –– not the Kurds, for example, nor the Algerian Berbers, nor the Christian blacks of southern Sudan, nor the Muslim blacks of Darfur –– were sovereign communities or even enjoyed an autonomy to which the Arab regimes objected. Yet many Jews delude themselves that the Arab world is prepared to make an exception for the Jews and reconcile itself to a Jewish state in its midst if only Israel will make sufficient concessions on borders."

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