Thursday, February 24, 2011

Time to open our eyes

Yoaz Hendel
Israel Opinion/Ynet
24 February '11,7340,L-4033124,00.html

Samuel Huntington’s famous book, The Clash of Civilizations, includes a grim prediction of the post-Cold War world. Contradicting what was considered politically correct, Huntington chose to point to that which is different and problematic, thereby prompting a discussion on the danger inherent in cultural isolationism (Among other things, in respect to the distance between Islam and the West.)

Huntington got a cold shower of criticism by those who did not recognize gaps as a product of human nature; these were people who chose to ignore hundreds of years of ignorance in Arab states. If you will, it was similar to the old debate between pessimists and optimists.

In Europe, this was manifested through the turning of a blind eye to the ceaseless stream of immigrants. We then saw the famous multicultural approach, which allowed Muslim immigrants to live their lives with complete freedom, assuming that this will prompt them to abandon their old culture and warmly adopt the liberal Europe.

This approach, by the way, led to the creation of current-day Europe – scared of and trampled by the Muslim giant, which chose a renewed conquest instead of the melting pot.

The optimist approach was also manifested through the West’s foreign policy – especially in respect to the Middle East. The longtime Arab-Israeli conflict was forced to become a minor dispute over territory, while disregarding its cultural and religious roots, and especially the scope of the hatred it comprises.

For years, the West sold the notion of peace as a bridge between cultures. Egypt and Jordan served as proof. Yet peace did not become a bridge, but rather, a momentary interest. While the leaders made peace, Israel continued to serve as the target for mass fury.

New Middle East?

The approach espoused by objectors to the “clash of civilizations” notion forcefully permeated Israeli policy. Instead of examining the Middle East through a wide prism, our leaders (some of them brave and filled with good intentions) chose to examine reality via borders, withdrawals, and construction freezes. In short, they adopted a narrow view in line with the rhetoric of those who sought peace now.

I’d like to clarify that my words do not aim to again slam the supporters of withdrawal. There are situations where we may have to evacuate some communities in order to expand others and create viable borders. There are no holy compounds that we must not ask questions about when taking strategic decisions. On the other hand, thus far things in Israel had been done based on thoughts of a new Middle East or a breakthrough in shattering the obstacles of civilization.

The paradox is that now of all times, when the Arab world changes and seemingly adopts the root of Western culture, democracy, the clash of civilizations appears more tangible than ever.

The best illustration of this is the speech delivered by the 84-year-old Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi over the last weekend. After long years in exile as result of his radical views, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood returned to Egypt on the wings of democracy. In one appearance, whose most practical element was anti-Israel expressions, he managed to bring more than two million people to Tahrir Square.

This number is supposed to be of great interest to President Barack Obama’s people, who estimated that only half a million people support the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi, whose weekly show on al-Jazeera is watched by 40 million people (much more than any reality show,) demonstrated what his civilization is all about.

Yet Egypt, the historic anchor of peace, is not alone. The process of radicalization is also sweeping through Jordan and the Palestinian street. Nonetheless, we are hearing calls in Israel that “this is the time to make peace.”

However, I suggest that we read Huntington and look in the mirror.

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