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Regaining Perspective on the Middle East

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Message Howard Karger
See this page for links to articles on OpEdNEws that articulate both sides on the issues in the middle east. It is the goal of OpEdNews to air opinions from both sides to stretch the envelope of discussion and communication. Hate statements are not accepted. Discussions of issues and new ideas for solutions are encouraged. .
The American left has lost its way when it comes to the Middle East. I understand that a guiding principle of the left is to support the underdog. However, sometimes that support obscures the real underdog. This is true in the case of the Middle East.

In the current Mideast turmoil, Lebanon and the Hizbollah are the underdog. It's a David and Goliath scenario, with defenseless Lebanon and ragtag Hizbollah confronting the Israeli Goliath. Never mind that Israel is a tiny country of 6.2 million people surrounded by 150 million Arabs. If we disregard the facts, there is a romantic element to this scenario.

But who is the David that Israel is fighting? Is Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah the liberator of Palestine or a fanatic who despises Western society and wants to reshape the world in his narrow vision of Islam? His own statements clarify his goals. According to a 2002 article by Badih Chayban in Lebanon's Daily Star, Nasrallah stated that 'if they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.' Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in his book, Hizbullah: Politics and Religion, quotes Nasrallah's view of Jews: 'If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew.' According to the New York Sun, Nasrallah claims that 'Jews invented the legend of the Holocaust.' During another appearance on Hizbollah's Al-Manar television in 2002, Nasrallah praised David Irving for denying the existence of gas chambers.

Writing in the National Review, David Rubin claims that in 2000 Nasrallah declared, 'The Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities... Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history.... Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment.' These statements don't exactly make me feel like Nasrallah is a kindred spirit. They also don't make me sanguine about the long-term prospects for peace in Lebanon.

I would be skeptical of these reports except that they fit comfortably with Ahmadinejad's - Hizbollah's spiritual and military supporter - statements about the Holocaust being a myth. The also fit with the recent international Holocaust cartoon exhibition in Teheran, where the 'best cartoon' gets a $12,000 prize. Although Osama Bin Laden is Sunni rather than Shiite, his words in an open letter to Americans in 2002 could be those of Nasrallah:

The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam. The religion of the Unification of God.... of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad.... It is the religion whose book - the Quran - will remain preserved and unchanged, after the other Divine books and messages have been changed.

The hypocrisy is that I know of no progressive who could stomach living in the kind of radical Islamic state envisioned by Nasrallah. Most couldn't even bear living in a moderate one. In fact, much of the left are secular, or agnostic, if not outright atheists. We strongly believe in the separation of church and state. We also like our Pinots, our earthy movies, believe in living together before marriage, in free sexual expression, and we frequently swear, sometimes even taking God's name in vain. We value democracy, free speech, critical inquiry and civil liberties; most of us wouldn't voluntarily give them up. And what about gays and lesbians? The first ones to go? As infidels we would be rounded up in an eyeblink.

So why is the left supporting a group inimical to our core values? Why are we supporting radical Islamic leaders that fight for a theocratic state which is abhorrent to us in principle and practice? In my book, that's tantamount to masochism.

Jimmy Carter's supported the Taliban over the Russians, a blunder that eventually came back to haunt us. Cozy up to the devil and you end up in hell.

It's time for the left to shed its fantasies about struggling underdogs and develop a sense of realpolitik about the Middle East. Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad, and Hamas' Haniyeh are opposed to tolerance and liberal civil societies. They cynically exploit democracy to consolidate their power, and then discard it for a repressive theocratic state that rewards corrupt religious leaders. (The rampant corruption in Iran is a case in point.) Regardless of one's support for Israel, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.
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Howard Karger is the author of shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Berrett-Koehler, 2005) and a professor at the University of Houston.
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Regaining Perspective on the Middle East

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