As Israelis Observe the Arab World, Logic Makes Way for Fear

Today, with guys running around Iraq and Syria cutting off heads, the fears that get peddled in Israel are snapped up immediately.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Fighters from the Islamic State marching in Raqqa, Syria, January 2014.
Fighters from the Islamic State marching in Raqqa, Syria, January 2014. Credit: AP
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

No one can escape a reckoning — no person and no community. After all, there might be some truth in the other side’s arguments. Neither side in a conflict has a monopoly on deep thinkers.

I admit that if I have to argue, I’d rather do it with somebody I know, even if he’s an opponent to the bone, rather than with an anonymous person posting something on the Internet. Yet an online comment to a recent article of mine begs addressing. The comment reflects the prevailing tone today, even if unwittingly.

“A billion Arabs have decided to eliminate Israel and Europe,” this person writes. “It doesn’t matter what they think of us … the world will understand us …. There has been a change in attitude.” In other words, we’re dealing with a terrible danger that's the only thing we should be worried about. We shouldn’t worry about our standing around the world.

When I want to know what the far-right is thinking, I make sure to read columns in the newspaper Israel Hayom by Dror Eydar, a man with very specific views and a sharp pen. The more I read him, the better I understand the concepts that guide him and his ilk.

But lately a new tone has pervaded his writing. As hard as he can, Eydar is peddling a sense of existential fear. This same fear, a key pillar of a view of our future, is evident in that Internet comment to my article.

In recent history, it seems the right has constantly tried to market fear. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a master of fear-mongering — about rockets, nuclear weapons and terror groups.

In the past he found it harder to sell his goods, partly because of oversimplifications and partly because others sought to create a new reality here. Today, with guys running around Iraq and Syria cutting off heads, the fears that get peddled in Israel are get snapped up immediately. Logic makes way for emotion.

Thus the slogan “Death to Arabs” is fashionable in certain segments of society. Eydar, for his part, writes mockingly about peace-lovers who refuse to learn lessons: “They’re still talking about a Palestinian state a spitting distance away from [central Tel Aviv].”

But as far as fear is concerned, I don’t think the Islamic State is the real threat to our security. It’s the lack of a solution to our conflict with the Palestinians.

Many people on the street and in the media don’t see the danger to Israel from our resistance to an agreement with the Palestinians. But I think this attitude will make the struggle against Israel the top project in the Arab world. For the time being, in most of the Arab world, all we get is lip service.

Yet shouldn’t we fear that our actions will badly damage the international legitimacy of our existence as a Jewish and democratic state, something that will worsen the Arabs’ complaints against us? How can we look our children in the eyes as we leave them a world clouded by fears, some of which we created and have done nothing to change?

We’re the last ones who should try to turn every Arab into an adherent of the Islamic outlook. As with every ethnic group, there is variation among the Arabs too, and it’s our fate to live with some of them, because we share the same land.

Common sense dictates that either we split the land into two states or be forced to live in a Jewish-Arab nation stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. I believe an international front will arise and destroy the shoots of the Islamic State. But let’s not live in delusion: Such a front will also aspire to resolve the Palestinian issue, perhaps through a comprehensive agreement with most of the Arab states.

None of the threats that the right wing is highlighting are reasons for fear. The policy they extol is the real reason.

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