Photo: Yariv Katz
Guy Bechor
Photo: Yariv Katz

Refugees no longer in fashion

Op-ed: With region in turmoil, most Arabs discover Israeli-Palestinian conflict irrelevant

Over the last six months or so the Arab world lost a principle axis, on which it has leaned heavily for decades, and now, it is forced to redefine itself. The axis was hostility to Israel, the only glue that held it together – all of it – ethnic groups, religious groups, minorities, rulers, clans and regions that had nothing else connecting them.


Hatred for Israel was practically the only common ground for all the parties in the region who are now dispersing to the four winds. This is also precisely what the past dictators did. Mubarak, Gaddafi, Assad, and all the others directed the attention of their citizens away from the problems in their countries to an external enemy.


It was pleasing to hate Israel. This hatred created internal unity, and the citizens bought the diversionary tactics. Now however, when an immense Arab public is clamoring for rights, the conflict with Israel has returned to correct proportions – irrelevant to most of the Arabs, who have nothing to do with Israel.


When the crisis broke out, six months ago more or less, the old rulers tried the old trick. Gaddafi claimed that Israel was instigating the rebellion in Libya. The president of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh, claimed the Mossad was behind his country’s riots. And Assad claimed that Israel is sending special messages to the Syrian people and calling on them to demonstrate in the streets, imagine that. Ahmadinejad is also saying such things of course.


The worst consequence for these regimes is that no one buys this nonsense anymore, while once many believed it. Now it’s the opposite. Such ridiculous claims only agitate the people more and more against the deceitful rulers. It’s not that the glue no longer sticks things together, it is breaking them apart.


At the start of the crisis, the traditional media outlets in the Arab world forcefully tried to stimulate the old conflict, but little by little Israel disappeared from the agenda. Who has time to report about Israel and its calm and stability when Syria is burning, Libya is burned, Yemen is catching fire, Egypt is in tumult, Lebanon is boiling, Iraq is blowing up, and all of North Africa is percolating?


Who has time for the professional Palestinian refugees, who have not managed to rehabilitate themselves for 63 years, while meanwhile the region (and Europe) is filling up with hundreds of thousands of fresh refugees?


Good news for Israel

Another terrible blow has struck the traditional Arab media – a new generation has been born, which lives on the Internet and far less in traditional media. This generation wants to think for itself, rather than having someone else thinking for them or over their heads. Facebook is a tool for the curious and the individualist. For this reason also the printed newspapers in the Arab world are losing their circulation fast, and many will close altogether soon.


Hence, a whole new generation is bypassing the traditional media and meeting the real Israel via Facebook. Millions of Arabs are looking for materials that have been concealed from them, and there is great curiosity. Now it isn’t Israel coming to them, but they are coming to Israel. This phenomenon is growing too.


Many people are discovering that the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not as central as it was depicted, and it is certainly clear today that it is not the heart of the Middle East conflict. On the contrary, in the eyes of more and more Arabs Israel appears indeed like a model worthy of discussion –its democracy, the way it has successfully integrated East and West, its highly developed civil society.


This process is beneficial for Israel. Now it has better chances in the region, without the incitement of decades past as a tool of dictatorship in the hands of dictators. This process is also beneficial for Arab societies, which are developing self awareness; societies that are finally able to look at themselves internally. There will not be another central axis on which the whole Arab world will be able to lean. But there will be endless true and stable axes – even more than the old illusion that is breaking up now.



פרסום ראשון: 07.14.11, 21:23
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