What it is ain't exactly clear...
At this point, 7 p.m. on Saturday evening in Israel, whatever I write will be overtaken by events, but America, no less than we are, should be afraid, very afraid of the domino effect caused by the popular uprisings in Tunisia, and now Egypt.
Tunisia will likely be under the thumb of Islamic radicals shortly, even though this is not what the protesters wanted, and Mubarak is finished, and Egypt is likely to turn much more fundamentalist as well.
About 40 years ago an Israeli, Rafael Patai, wrote a very good book called "The Arab Mind" in which he noted the degree to which there was an almost total disconnect between the educated and uneducated classes in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt. The educated emulated Western culture, felt considerable shame for the "primitive" fellah, were usually less fanatic and more secular. The peasantry, however, which constitutes the vast majority of the population, saw the educated and wealthier classes as something not quite "Egyptian", something alien. Whoever comes out on top now, one of the first things they will do, once the looting stops, is to close as many Western-style institutions as they can. Incidentally, that will destroy one of Egypt's main sources of income, the tourist industry. Moslem Brotherhood terrorists have already targeted foreign, "decadent" tourists repeatedly. One can only hope that, in the name of Islam, Egypt's ancient treasures won't be damaged as being "idolatrous". Certainly the 10% of Egyptians who are Coptic Christians have reason to be very fearful for their very lives in a Islamic Egypt.
We, of course, are similarly worried. Although the peace treaty signed with Sadat has never actually been a peace treaty -- much more an agreement of non-belligerence, as Egyptians cannot visit Israel nor has there ever been any common business ventures between Israel and Egypt [indeed, the flow of money has been only one way, with Israelis visiting Egypt] and in fact there is rampant, vicious, and government-sponsored anti-Semitism in Egypt -- any change of government in Egypt brings with it a possible abrogation of that treaty. In the case of an Islamic state, it will be almost a certainty. [That's why, when all Israel was in ecstasy over the end of the formal state of war Egypt claimed to be in with Israel, I was opposed to the treaty, back in 1977-78. I was sure it would not survive Sadat. In that I was wrong, because when Mubarak took over after Sadat's assassination, he endorsed it. But I was sure -- am sure -- that the treaty would not last after the Mubarak era]
What is happening in the Middle East is that the traditional fault line between Shi'a and Sunni is reasserting itself. There is huge poverty and corruption in both populations, in all the countries from Turkey to North Africa. The simple folks see Islam as the solution, not the cause, because they are told so, from the mosques. And they are ignorant enough to believe the demagogues who will find a scapegoat for their own inability to give the people what they want. Israel sits, as a kind of mini-America in their midst like a bone in the throat. Now that Obama has shown, in his speech endorsing Mubarak, that he's not only weak but stupid, and that the Americans, fleeing Iraq, aren't to be feared anymore, animosities that are nearly a millennium old are reviving.
Israel is like a pimple, not a cancer. If you are Shi'a, the cancer is any Muslim not Shi'a. If you are Sunni, the cancer comes from certain heretical views held by the Shi'ites. And so on. And, it must be remembered that the Middle East is far from homogenous ethnically. Those who revolted in Tunisia are Berbers; Lebanon is a patchwork of ethnic groups, the Turks are yet another distinct group, as are the Syrians and the Iranians. The modern Egyptian is only marginally racially related to the Egyptian of the Pharaonic period [the most pure are in the remotest villages that never were touched by the Hellenistic or later periods], and the so-called Palestinians are a really mongrel people, with more than twenty distinct ethnic groups participating in their composition, from as far away as the Sudan and the Balkans. The only true Arabs are the Saudis. All are linked by Arabic [it is forbidden to translate the Koran so every child learns enough Arabic to understand it] but Arabic is not the mother tongue of Turks, Tunisians, Iranians, Iraqis, or Kurds, who have very unique cultures.
There's not a lot we can do but sit quietly at present, but like a pimple which constantly reminds you of its existence by pain, needs to be squeezed for relief, and ultimately will be. Watch and see how Iran re-directs its venom from Israel to Sunni nations who attempt to thwart its march toward hegemony of the northern part of the Levant. Watch and see how a resurgent Islamic Egypt and North Africa try to delegitimize those countries with large Shi'a populations and governments, like Lebanon and Iran.
And in the midst of it all, like a tiny amount of flavoring for a cake, sits Al Qaeda, ready to "purify" all Islam in its crusade to conquer the entire Infidel world for the True Faith.
It will take a while for all this ferment to have concrete effects on the US; but it will come, because the adherents of Islam aren't "politically correct" and do not believe in tolerance. But it will come. Welcome to the medieval world of resurgent Islam at the end of the Crusades.
[to be continued, as things, in the words of Howard Cosell, "eventuate".
|Your Brain is Green|