The Predictable Middle East Crisis
Can we know what will happen in the Middle East? William Gibson, an author and prophet of the information age, who, among other things, coined the word cyberspace, says that the future is predictable: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed."
Contemporary Jewish-Muslim relations are distributed so grotesquely unevenly that they provide plenty of hints at future trends. These relations vary wildly with the setting, numerical strength of each group, and context. Let us take four examples, moving from one extreme to the other.
Context 1. When prominent American Muslims appear on English-language TV to discuss issues like the Ground Zero Mosque, they love to play the Jewish card. They equate contemporary American society's treatment of the Muslims with what the American Jews experienced back in the '20s and '30s, hoping that this comparison will gain them more sympathy. Generally, when they face a largely skeptical Western audience, they project an enlightened and friendly attitude toward their Jewish brothers.
Context 2. This attitude changes drastically on American college campuses, where the Muslim groups feel emboldened by the left-wing professors and students. But they still have nothing against the Jewish people per se. They just demonize the Jewish state, which they call "criticism."
Context 3. The distinction between the Jews and Israel completely disappears when the Muslims become a sizable minority. For example, this is the case in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city, where the Muslims make up 25% of the total population. Jew-hatred in Malmo has reached a point that even the BBC abandoned its usual political correctness and devoted one of its reports in December of 2010 specifically to the verbal and physical harassment of Malmo's tiny Jewish community by Muslim immigrants.
Context 4. If you think that the situation cannot get any uglier, you are mistaken. Let us go to a place where the Muslims are a majority. The screams "Jew! Jew!" served as a battle cry for the gang-rape of liberal journalist Lara Logan in Egypt. It was not an ordinary rape carried out in a secluded location. It took place in crowded Tahrir Square, and it went on for 25 minutes. She is not a Jew, but the mere labeling her as such was reason enough for the viciousness unleashed on her.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West, fueled by immigration, higher birth rates and proselytizing, especially in prisons. If you are pondering the future of Jewish-Muslim relations, remember that the future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed yet.
Because of their relatively small numbers, Jews are a convenient target. But Christian-Muslim relations follow the same trajectory, to which the Egyptian Copts will readily attest. An Iraqi Christian has been quoted by the Christian Science Monitor as saying, "What's happening to us is what happened to the Jews."
Speaking of predictions, the Internet is currently abuzz with a recent report titled "The Next Middle East War." Its author, Chuck DeVore, has an impressive resume. He attended the American University in Cairo in the '80s. Then, he served as a US Army lieutenant colonel in military intelligence and worked as a Reagan-appointed special assistant for foreign affairs in the Pentagon. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, DeVore "beat the CIA" to predicting the current Arab crisis, a.k.a. the Arab Spring. In a word, his new report is definitely worth a brief review.
The report defies the conventional wisdom that a direct military attack on Israel will have to await the next presidential election in the US in 2012. It argues that two other events will precipitate the attack. They are the parliamentary elections in Egypt in September, where the Brotherhood wants to boost its popularity, and the pending release of the Hariri report by the UN, which Hezb'allah wants to prevent. Even though Hamas and Hezb'allah represent two opposing wings in the Muslim world, the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" mentality will bring them together.
Hence, the attack will occur in August of 2011, asserts the report. Here is the way it will unfold. Hamas and Hezb'allah declare a maritime blockade on Israel. They install anti-ship missile batteries in residential areas in Gaza and Lebanon, which attack Israeli ships. When Israel responds by hitting the batteries, the two terrorist groups invite Western media to report on casualties among civilians. International TV networks broadcast footage of bloodied women and children in Gaza.
The ensuing international indignation aroused by the Israeli 'atrocities' gives Hamas and Hezb'allah a "justification" to unleash a massive "retaliatory" rocket attack on major Israeli cities. Huge crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo chant "Death to Israel, death to America!" The Obama administration calls for a "comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question" and demands that Israel show more restraint. The UN Security Council calls for a ceasefire, while Egyptian parties pressure the military council to "teach Israel a lesson." Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Hamas leaders announce the creation of the Palestinian state. The media overlooks the part of the new state's charter proclaiming the intent to destroy Israel and institute Islamic law.
That was just the gist of Chuck DeVore's scenario. It sounds like a déjà vu, since we have already seen its main features, such as playing the victim card and using women and children for that reason. Another familiar feature is the dual role of the media. First, it is shamelessly manipulated to present a distorted view of reality. And second, once the distorted view is presented, this view actually shapes the reality by further inflaming Jew-hatred. In summary, the report paints a picture that is both chillingly dark and painfully familiar.
Eugene Veklerov is a scientist living in the Bay Area.