Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Linkages . . .

I can't believe this blog is still here after what, almost two years? I have been blogging on a private site called kanzaman, but I had to trash it because I screwed up the website and didn't have the time or patience to put humpty back together again.

So linkages has multiple meanings . . .

Just read Schmuel Rosner;s blog on Haaretz. He brings up the issue of the so called "linkage" that exists between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the larger regional morass in the Middle East. I don't want to go into the specifics of his argument, which is largely based on an Iranian writer by called Taheri. Rather, I want to throw my hat into this contentious ring . . .

The question of linkage has floated about for some time now, but most recently reared its head in the Baker-Hamilton report, in which Baker makes the claim that making progress on the Arab-Israeli front is vital to convincing European and Arab leaders of the viability and credibility of American actions in the region. The logic follows thus: Solve the question of Palestine and Israel, and garner support in Iraq, Iran and Syria. I don't think Baker's theory will actually work in practice, but that is neither here nor there. The question is, does this linkage actually exist?

Taheri argues that there is no such linkage, at least not a deep structural linkage. There is opportunism for sure. Arab leaders from Hosni Mubarak to the King of Jordan use their ostensible support of the Palestinians as a means of propping up unresponsive and often corrupt regimes. Furthermore, terrorists of the al-Qaida ilk cite the crisis and US-Israeli cooperation as a major justification in their war.

But does a resolution to the conflict make all of this disappear. Well, in a sense, yes. However, one must remember that dictators and terrorists (and often democracies) are very adept at creating new justifications for their nefarious activities, just as the old ones begin to leak.

Taheri's view is that no structural linkage exists, that the Palestinian question is in fact, at the periphery of the larger set of critical conflicts. I argue that the conflict may not have the kind of structural linkage that Baker-Hamilton suggest, i.e. Make things better in Israel-Palestine and things will be easier in Iraq. However, a linkage does exist in the minds of the people of the region. We cannot expect that the people of the Arab world suffer from the same parochial outlook that we here stateside do, not knowing what happens in the next country over. In the minds of the Arab people, and throughout the Muslim world to an extent, Palestine represents the brutal and ultimate logic of a set of policies that they see as trained directly on them and their homes. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has turned Gaza and the West Bank into virtual open-air prisons, illuminates in horrific scope and detail a worst of possible worlds, whose shadows threaten to loom in Iran, Syria, and have already darkened Iraq.

So yes, a linkage exists. It is in the psychology of the colonized where conflicts that are strategically disparate to the colonizer are made cohesive and interrelated. The Arab street asks, how can such a crime continue for so long, while still others are freshly committed. Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict is not panacea, but it will go no short way in achieving still greater realities of social justice and equality in the region.