For many years I've had my backseat-spectator's pet "theory" on how an adequate solution of the Near-Eastern crisis could be realized. A discussion on some mailing lists finally provoked me into blurting it out in public. It was broadcast on EastNet <email@example.com> and Jaga-Net <firstname.lastname@example.org> on Aug. 22, 1998.
The recent issue of establishing regular trade and diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel now opens new perspectives of Indonesia possibly contibuting to the peace process in this region as mediator (Such a role would be in good Indonesian tradition: during Sukarno's presidency, Indonesia's Garuda Regiment took part in UN forces guarding the peace in the Gaza Strip). That prompted me to mount this on the Web.
(mounted Nov. 23, 1999)
Date: 21 Aug 1998 14:32:47 -1000
To: eastnet, jaga-net
Subject: Re: Protest US Bombings
|The problems of the Middle East are so complex that I shrink from touching any of them. And yet I must say that from a strictly Arab point of view it is crystal clear that the state of Israel is simply a US-sponsored usurpation of Arab rights and Arab lands. So while I condemn the methods used, I certainly understand the reasoning behind them.|
You should go back to your history books again, I think. Israel wasn't US-sponsored, even if Jews in the US might have had an important role in the entire zionist movement of that time. I think a lot of people share guilt for what became of the Palestinians.
One can understand the Jews after the WWII holocaust, wanting to return to a homeland of their own, but that obviously didn't give anyone the right to chase the Palestinians off their lands. The British (not the Americans) who were in charge at that time might have organized some more intelligent solution. But perhaps it is always simple to criticize afterwards. Actually, Israel would never have succeeded the way it had, if not for the fact that Arabs were much more interested in fighting against each other, rather than for Palestina. Not very likely that they would accept that bit of guilt of course, particularly not since the US has so consistently been offering itself as convenient scapegoat all the while.
Indeed, the US has always had a vested interest in the area, and that's kept them being vulnerable all along. The magic word is OIL! At first, keeping the Arabs divided against each other meant continued control over the oil wells. Later, after the oil crisis and the emergence of OPEC, when oil producer countries could dictate the oil price, catching the US on their wrong foot just after the debacle in Nam, keeping the Arabs warring each other guaranteed that they would pump back all those petro-dollars straight to the industrial nations again to buy arms. That's the US main interest here, not Israel.
But Israel comes into the picture under a different aspect. As paradoxical as this may seem, but, just as much that mutual dissent among the Arabs has prevented that the Israelis were driven into the Mediterranean, so also does final survival and wellfare for Israel (and Palestina!) depend upon mutual peace and cooperation between the Semitic nations. But this, I think, is what everybody else has always been and continues to be real scared about.
A couple of years ago, some people asked me whether it would be prudent or safe to invest a lot in China. I told them, that the main mistakes most people made in appraising China as a potential place for investments were (a) they saw it as some normal Asian developing or threshold country, and (b) they saw it as just another socialist, East-Bloc state. But, when one decided to give up socialism in Russia and start setting up capitalism there, this resulted in a total collapse and beginning anew from scratch. China is different. To understand China, imagine Israel and the Arabs united in mutual consent as one state. China has an enormous, highly educated and very wealthy diaspora, just like Israel, but it is as large as, and even more populous than all the Arab countries taken together. And it looks back on a civilization that could well stand up to the Near East in ancienity. Chinese Emperors held relations with Babylon! China can't collapse the way Russia did. Technical and capital resources of the Chinese diaspora all over the world would close in to save the homeland.
Now, if we just turn the tables around, you'll realise that it has been very important throughout the cold war and also after it, for a lot of people to see to it that the Jews and the Arabs didn't patch up their differences. Because Jews and Arabs united would mean another China right slap before Europe's front door, only that they would be even richer because of Arab oil, and that because of the Jews, and more recently also the Sheikhs, Western financial centers are already to some certain degree in their control anyway...:-)
If one wanted to, one could very easily reconciliate Jews and Arabs with each other and set up self-sustaining peaceful relations between them. There is just one key question to be solved, and it is one that can be solved relatively easily. All the other problems then get solved automatically. But that key question is never touched upon, as though it were the greatest taboo of all times. Even when they killed Rabin, neither friend nor foe dared touch upon it. (the reason why he was bound to get killed one way or the other, was in my opinion that he dared to seriously contemplate reaching a peace treaty without having that key question solved).
Will one someday permit Jews and Arabs to reconciliate? I think there is all the chance that they'll be forced to do so in not too distant future. I don't think one can stop the development in China. Now imagine an East Asian economic power centered in China, coupled with Japanese capital and Southeast Asian natural resources. There'll be nothing to set up against it. Already now, how much of American and European economy is in Japanese hands? They'll have no choice but to allow for a Jewish- Arabic Near Eastern center to counterbalance the Far Eastern one.
And what's that key? It's the Israeli national debt. So many years of war and confrontation with numerically overwhelming Arabic opponents has lead to an astronomical national debt, which no democratic government can force its population to carry under peace conditions. Only the constant threat of war keeps this national debt manageable. The solution is therefore a gigantic petro-dollar loan of the Arabs to cover the Israeli national debt. The Arabs wouldn't need to be afraid of Israel anymore, because they would practically own it. Israel wouldn't need to be afraid of the Arabs anymore, because it is bad policy to bomb or kill your debtors (you never get your money back).
This would immediately open the way for a Pan-Semitic integration, in which the Palestinians would inevitably and automatically take the mediator role. Palestinians are already the Arabic nation with the highest average level of education and technical expertise. They also already have an educated and wealthy diaspora (though not nearly comparable with that of the Jews or Chinese). But the decisive circumstance here is something else:
Where do Indonesians go when they go to Europe? (answer: Holland), where do Pakistanis/Indians go when going to Europe? (Britain), and where do Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians go? (France). Former colonial masters are the favourite Europeans of the former colonies. (One problem the Turks perhaps have with the Germans could be that they'd never been a German colony). The same also holds vice versa, the favourite Asians of the Dutch are Indonesians, of the British are Indians and Pakistanis, etc., etc., ... Why? The relationship between colonial master and colony is just as intimate as in forced marriage. After a while you grow accustomed to each other and even get to love the bastards. You in any case know more about each other than perhaps even about yourself.
Ditto Palestinians and Israelis. Once peace is restored, whether the one gets full independence, or a greater or lesser degree autonomy, would only be a formality. After one or two generations, they'll be in each other's arms and there'll be no way to separate them: with Arabic petro-dollars tied in Israel, and Israelo-Palestinian technical experts and specialists infiltrating the economies of the whole Arab world. Even today, Palestinian technicians and experts are all over the place there, and highly valued for their know-how. As for the Jews, they had always felt quite comfortable and were well treated in the Caliphates. That enabled them to become mediators transmitting Arabo-Islamic science and technology to Renaissance Europe.
Once peace is restored, and Israelo-Palestinian experts infiltrate the Arab world, domestic Arabic capital would no longer be idle, only finding application in buying up Europe, America, or jetfighters and tanks. That capital will suddenly find application at home, and once that happens, the command will move from the hands of the more or less dictatorial heads of states into the hands of businessmen (Arabs are great business people per long tradition!). Many ambitious politicians leads to war. A lot of busy business people doing business with each other is the best imaginable guarantee of peace. They'd be totally puzzled if you asked them whether they knew what "jihad" meant.....
Simple, isn't it? :-)