The democratic threat to the Jewish state

Ilan Pappe writes on why Israelis fear the prospect of becoming surrounded democratic Arab states.

Nonviolent, democratic (be they religious or not) Arabs are bad for Israel. But maybe these Arabs were there all along, not only in Egypt, but also in Palestine. The insistence of Israeli commentators that the most important issue at stake — the Israeli peace treaty with Egypt — is a diversion, and has very little relevance to the powerful impulse that is shaking the Arab world as a whole.

The peace treaties with Israel are the symptoms of moral corruption not the disease itself — this is why Syrian President Bashar Asad, undoubtedly an anti-Israeli leader, is not immune from this wave of change. No, what is at stake here is the pretense that Israel is a stable, civilized, western island in a rough sea of Islamic barbarism and Arab fanaticism. The “danger” for Israel is that the cartography would be the same but the geography would change. It would still be an island but of barbarism and fanaticism in a sea of newly formed egalitarian and democratic states.

In the eyes of large sections of Western civil society the democratic image of Israel has long ago vanished; but it may now be dimmed and tarnished in the eyes of others who are in power and politics. How important is the old, positive image of Israel for maintaining its special relationship with the United States? Only time will tell.

But one way or another the cry rising from Cairo’s Tahrir Square is a warning that fake mythologies of the “only democracy in the Middle East,” hardcore Christian fundamentalism (far more sinister and corrupt than that of the Muslim Brotherhood), cynical military-industrial corporate profiteering, neo-conservatism and brutal lobbying will not guarantee the sustainability of the special relationship between Israel and the United States forever.

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2 thoughts on “The democratic threat to the Jewish state

  1. Norman

    As Democracy grows within the M.E., it’s going to become harder for the U.S. to justify supporting Israel, regardless of what the neo-cons want. Just as what happened to the Israeli’s took place in the first half of the 20th century, they no longer matter whether or not they like it. They have the ability to play a super role in this new M.E., but whether they will choose to do so, remains a question mark. Israel becomes less important to the whole, with the exception that they retain the ability to blow the whole M.E. to pieces if their mad men so choose. That is one frightening thought.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    The ‘special relationship’ is a function of the corruption in Washington — its end will be the most visible signal of the arrival of an American intifada — the shaking off of the neo-cons, the neo-liberal casino capitalism, the overweening power of the military-industrial complex. As Pappe indicates, in the hardcore Christian fundamentalism that rots the social fabric of the country from within, Israel and its entitlements and imagined significance are only a convenient mythology to fleece the fools.
    The American public must choose between living democracy or talking it.

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