December 26, 2010
The Aspen Institute's Futile Middle East InitiativesBy David J. Kudish
The basic premise of the Aspen Institute's well-intentioned initiatives in the Middle East is that economic development on the West Bank (the area controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his organization, Fatah) is the key to success in the ongoing peace negotiations. It is supposed that this effort will bring jobs, income, a positive-initiative multiplier effect, and a reduction in despair. The institute is counting on this effort to be a breakthrough success in the region. This, in turn, according to the institute's thinking, will create a path toward "peace."
However, despite many indications of the true, underlying fundamental roadblock to progress for peace, these idealists (representing the American and Western discounting of hard realities) insist that it is economic opportunities that can create new visions and change conditions in the region. I respectfully disagree. Further, the Aspen Institute, while attempting to express "all points of view," systematically exhibits biases against a full airing of the issues in the public forums organized by it for public consumption.
The blockage to peace in the region is based upon not economics, but instead an intractable religious ideology of a nihilistic form of Islam -- and a point of view rarely, if ever, expressed in the idyllic location of Aspen, CO. The ideologues of the Institute -- an otherwise marvelous organization doing wonderful work worldwide -- categorically refuse to process information that would shine the light on other points of view in this intractable conflict. The result is a perpetuation of conflict and a total waste of valuable resources funded by trustees and fellows of the institute.
The underlying fact is that the Palestinian leadership -- whether Fatah in the West Bank or Hamas in Gaza -- refuses to accept anything other than a Muslim-controlled entity where Israel now stands. This is why regardless of the faction and how "peaceful" they claim to be, their logos show all of Israel as incorporated into the future Palestinian state. They all envision the dismantling of the State of Israel. This, in effect, will wipe out Israel as the only Jewish state in the world. (There are well over 45 Muslim majority-controlled states in the world, and many Christian states, too.) Implementation of the "right of return" -- in essence, permitting millions of "refugees" (grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren of the original refugees) is a surefire demographic time bomb that will alter the electorate in Israel and result in the destruction of all the political and economic structures put in place since Israeli independence in 1948.
(Frankly, the issues and the proposed solution would be no different if it were not Jews, but instead Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists who controlled the land area known as "Israel." The ummah [the Arab community or "street"], headed by virulent authoritarian leadership, will not accept anything other than an authority dedicated to the restoration of the Muslim caliphate and the imposition of Sharia law -- inherently non-democratic, anti-feminist, anti-gay...and anti-American.)
As to legitimacy, Israel is no less legitimate than many other national entities in the region. As a brief historical review, the British installed a Saudi tribe -- the Hashemites -- in the area known as Transjordan after the Supreme Allied Powers carved up the Middle East during the 1920s. The Hashemites lost a tribal war with the House of Saud (1922) over control of the Muslim holy places in Medina and Mecca. Almost 80% of the British Mandate promised for a Jewish Homeland through the Balfour Declaration (1917) was removed from the intended land designation in one swoop following the San Remo Conference in Italy after WWI. Jordan today controls the largest "Palestinian" population in the world, yet Jordan is threatened by destabilizing factors instigated by radial jihadists.
Aspen will be honored to host Jordan's King Abdullah in a return visit to the Aspen Institute during the summer of 2011. Never mentioned in any of the publicity pieces put out by the kingdom or the Aspen Institute is the fact that the forces that assassinated Abdullah's great grandfather (his namesake) in front of the Al Aqsa mosque in 1953 and almost killed his father (King Hussein of Jordan) are alive and well in Egypt today (the Islamic Brotherhood, or "Ichwhan"). They stand ready to subvert any and all reductions in confrontations between Arab states and the West. They killed Anwar Sadat in their attempts to destroy the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. They have indicated their desire to promote more violence once they are unleashed as a political force after the death of Egyptian President Mubarak's death (expected in 2011).
King Abdullah's lecture in 2008 blamed Israel for the difficulties in the region. So did the Palestinian Foreign Minister Salem Fayyad, who spoke in 2010 in Aspen. The latter made peaceful overtures to the Aspen crowd and to questioners (such as former CIA Director Jim Woolsey). However, words spoken in English in Aspen have little impact in moderating the incendiary words spoken back home in Arabic. This point is not lost on our invitees -- just on the attendees, who ingratiate themselves in the presence of such political influence.
Through creative map-making following World War I, the victors of the war were the colonial powers -- mainly Great Britain and France. They created the countries of Transjordan (as noted), Lebanon (carved out of Greater Syria), and Iraq (formerly the Ottoman region known as Mesopotamia). The British installed a former Saudi as king of Iraq -- the great grand-uncle of the current king of Jordan. Why was a Sunni Arab from the Arabian peninsula installed over a very proud but culturally different set of peoples who hearken back to the days of Babylonia and today are majority Shia?
As to the legitimacy of new nations, many were formed in the post-World War II period. Just examine the "count" of voting members of the United Nations in 1945 versus in 2010. None -- except Israel -- is being challenged as to "legitimacy." For example, the countries of India and Pakistan were created, and later, East Pakistan split off from Pakistan in a war of independence to form Bangladesh. Huge population transfers (dwarfing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) ensued...with the U.N. designating "refugee" status to only those directly affected by the mass movements of peoples. All over the world, the United Nations designates refugee status to those directly involved... whereas the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (the only separate U.N. group to deal with so-called Palestinian refugees) designates all descendants of the population transfer of Palestinians to be refugees (exacerbating the problem by magnitudes of complexity).
According to its mandate, UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for registered members and their families. Economic benefits are paid to layers and multiple generations of family members (including to the deceased! -- a political ploy reminiscent of the great city of Chicago). Nowhere in the equation was/is the sudden forced expulsion of about 700,000 Jews (circa 1949-1950s) from ancient communities in now-Arab-controlled lands (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and so forth) considered as a balancing matter. Billions in property were confiscated without reparations. These refugees were resettled by the Jewish community, and no refugee problem exists. In fact, Muslims from Darfur are being resettled in Israel as a humanitarian effort.
We endorse human rights and self determination. Nevertheless, despite all of the hand-wringing about the "oppression" of the Palestinians, the 6 million Palestinians split among the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper -- where they enjoy full citizenship rights and elect representatives to the Knesset -- where are the concerns about statehood for the 23 million Kurds trapped in conflicts in Turkey, Iran, and the north of Iraq? Or the black African Muslims in Darfur (in the south of Sudan) experiencing genocide at the hands of Arab Muslims in the north of Sudan? Or the Palestinian Muslim terror against the Palestinian Christians, under siege in their own "country"? The truth is that the oppression of the Palestinians is largely a consequence of the horrific governance and corruption of their leadership. Billions of dollars have been misdirected to Swiss bank accounts or armament purchases. There are many peoples far worse off than the Palestinians who receive enormous public aid from the U.S., the EU and other funders...while they advance jihad and terrorism under state sponsorship, some of which oozes into mosques in the U.K. and the U.S.
And the U.N. is a worthless bystander. Since the recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon, the UNFIL (United Nations Force in Lebanon) have stood aside with a blind eye to permit Hezb'allah's rearming of southern Lebanon, further fueling later conflicts in the region under the watchful eye of the key sponsor of Hezb'allah, the Iranians. Turkey now aids the rearming of the jihadists in Gaza with their flotilla publicity stunts.
With all this in flux, why is it only the singular Jewish state known as Israel being challenged as to its legitimacy? Failure to examine the true, underlying fundamentals of this "problem" will continue to waste resources and deceive well-meaning people who fund these Aspen Institute (and similarly well intended) aid programs. Please remember that Ms. Mary Robinson, affiliated with the Aspen Institute, was a key facilitator in the first Durbin Conference (2001), which provided the grounds for anti-Semitic rhetoric reminiscent of the Nazis.
Paraphrasing Arthur Brooks (head of the American Enterprise Institute), who spoke at the Aspen Institute during June 2009, "If you do not get the narrative right, you cannot hope to solve the problem at hand."
This problem of incorrect narratives contaminates the entire discussion of Middle East dialogue...despite good intentions. And part of the incorrect narrative is the presumption that this is an economic development or "fairness" issue...with the "logical" endgame being two states for two peoples. Let's do a "count." There are the Palestinians that dominate Jordan. Then the Fatah-controlled West Bank. Finally, the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. By the author's count, that is three states controlled by Muslims of different ideological bents...before we consider the status of the state of Israel. And based upon their internal media and school texts, most of the Arab ideologies call for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish (or rather non-Muslim) state.
So what is the real agenda being promoted by the Aspen Institute's intended largesse? Three additional Muslim-controlled states in the region...and the elimination of that technological powerhouse known as Israel, the venture capitalists' dream? The incubator of medical and technological discoveries that benefit mankind? Destroy Israel, and the world destroys (once again) the intellectual capital of an ancient people...to the detriment of the world.
To think that the Aspen Institute's considerable prestige and power can alter the fundamentals of this complex situation is a pipe dream that will be dashed and smashed...despite the niceties and diplomatic words uttered in Aspen Meadows during the summers of the first and second decades of the 21st century. It is time for the Aspen Institute to permit a wider range of dialogue to expose the falsities of the narratives bandied about in the search for solutions that do not exist.
I embrace the general vision promulgated by the Aspen Institute...and wish it success to increase dialogue, create relationships among those who disagree to aid conversation and the seeking of common ground, and reduce conflict in a complex world -- in short, to find win-win solutions. However, placing a westernized imprimatur on a largely primitive society that characterizes (unfortunately) most of the Arab and Muslim world flies in the face of reality and common sense.