Why the Middle East should remind us of the Falklands

28 01 2011

Category; Middle East, Politics

Almost 30 years ago an Argentinian military oligarchy went to war with Britain over the Falkland Islands to divert its people from domestic issues.

Those same pressures are at work in the Middle East today and we should be concerned.


For decades Arab leaders have either allowed or encouraged the issue of Israel to be dominant because it distracted from social and geopolitical issues that affected their countries.

An illustration of the difference between the issues they really worry about and those they claim to be worried about came when Wikileaks revealed the sustained Arab lobbying on America to take military action against Iran.

Pressure from public protest against Arab regimes could lead those regimes to take drastic action to divert attention from domestic unrest; that action could be ratcheting up the tension with Israel.

This would be intensified by regime change within Arab countries. For decades two issues have been fostered among Arab populations; that Israel is the dominant problem and that the suffering of the Palestinians is all down to Israeli policy. The problem is a little more complex.

Popular uprisings could push to the forefront people who passionately believe those concepts and would also lead to increased tension as they acted on their genuine beliefs.

As if that weren’t enough we have the effects of the leaking of the Palestinian Negotiators’ papers.

Political analyst Emanuele Ottolenghi hit the nail on the head in regard to the peace process when he said;

“As if peace required only Israeli concessions — and unless those concessions were forthcoming, the rage of the Muslim world was somehow justified.”

It turns out that there is an element of realism amongst the Palestinian negotiators; that they understand what is possible and what is impossible. Unfortunately that puts them at odds with the people they represent who have been brought up on the notion that only the impossible is acceptable when it comes to Israel.

And it also infuriates part of the liberal left in the West who feel their ideals have been betrayed. Normally when one side in a seemingly intractable situation is shown to possess a degree of understanding and willingness to compromise it would be welcomed. Not to those on the liberal left who seem to portray the negotiators as having betrayed their own people.

That is both dangerous and patronising – what business is it of theirs? Isn’t there a hint of just the kind of Orientalism Edward Said told them about?

So the Palestinian negotiators, fearing their own people, and the intellectually purist lure of Hamas, cannot possibly pursue the line of negotiation they were engaged in. There is a real danger that the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority has been hopelessly undermined, which in turn could lead to increased tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

So; danger of war from unrest in Arab countries, danger of war from the undermining of the peace negotiations, any more dangers? Yes.

Just before all of this happened the Economist devoted its cover to the threat of war in the Middle East. They predicted the possibility that 2011 might see the Middle East engaged in “the most destructive war for many years.”

They pointed to the race to prevent Iran getting nuclear arms, the “increasingly volatile” Gaza border, and the arms build up by Hizbullah, which it says has been stocked by Syria and Iran with 50,000 missiles and rockets capable of reaching all parts of Israel.

They say that any war could “easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran.” And that was before the Hizbullah candidate Najib Mikati was appointed Prime Minister designate of Lebanon…

No-one deserves unseating more than the corrupt and autocratic rulers of the Arab world but, right now, the world does not feel a safer place because of it.

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