“US Secretary of State says that unrest between Israel and the Palestinians fuels unrest in the Middle East.” – The Jerusalem Post
“There wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment.” – US Secretary of State John Kerry
By blaming Israel for fueling the rise of radical Islamism, US Secretary of State John Kerry reveals a lack of comprehension that the rise of radical Islam is in fact rooted in long-standing religious geopolitical rivalry, and has little to do with Israel. His use of this rationale to justify restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks transforms his opinion from embarrassing to dangerous.
I spoke last week to the Middle East dialogue group at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA ). The group included students from Egypt, Israel, China, the US, France, the Netherlands and Morocco.
What follows is what I told them.
The rise of Islamic extremism in the modern period began with the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and the response of the Sunni world to the new Shi’ite assertiveness. The vicious rivalry between the Sunnis and Shi’ites began anew.
Wahhabi Sunnis created and supported al-Qaida and propagated a radicalization of the whole Sunni world. Shi’ite Persians wanted hegemony in the region partly because of their maltreatment at the hands of Sunnis over millennia. The fundamentalist Iranian state became the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, with the blood of many Americans on its hands.
Israel has been around for 66 years.
The Sunnis and Shi’ites have hated each other for 1,400 years. Israel has little to do with extreme Islamism, except for being a convenient scapegoat. Naïve Western diplomats believe Israel is the root cause of the problem primarily because autocratic and corrupt Arab leaders tell them so.
Kerry and his team should ask themselves the following questions: • What does Israel have to do with the Sunni-Shi’ite war playing out in Syria, Iraq and Yemen? • What does Israel have to do with Qatar and Kuwait supporting al-Qaida in Syria? • What does Israel have to do with Iran’s despicable human rights record? • What was Israel’s connection to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood – before Israel even existed? • How did Israel force the Arab world to import Nazi anti-Semitism as exemplified by the Hamas Charter, that rivals Mein Kampf? • What does Israel have to do with NATO ally Turkey becoming Islamist? • What is Israel’s role in the Islamist persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Middle East’s ancient Christian population? Kerry’s nine-month deadline for the last round of negotiations was probably the most important reason for Operation Protective Edge. Yet there is no indication Kerry understands that it is he who was the cause of so much death and destruction.
Now he wants to restart the peace talks. Violence inevitably and unfortunately will follow and again Kerry will find someone other than himself to blame.
There are reports that the Quartet of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia will be meeting soon to discuss the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Has anyone stopped recently to look at the makeup of the Quartet? The US, Israel’s only friend, will be represented by Kerry, who is convinced that the occupation – not Palestinian intransigence – is the cause of all problems.
It only gets worse from there. The EU cannot decide which is more important to do first – boycott Israel or recognize a Palestinian state. The UN’s disproportionate focus on delegitimizing Israel is the very definition of anti-Semitism. To its shame, 120 UN states of the “non-aligned movement” are lined up in back of the world’s leading state sponsor of terror – Iran.
In light of Russia’s current occupation of northern Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, perhaps they are best suited to discuss occupations.
Yet Kerry will again be raising the profile and influence of nations and organizations that are historically biased against Israel. And he still is not learning from his mistakes.
The author, an MD, is founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network.