The Tragedy of the Middle East

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These wrongs cannot easily or rapidly be put right.

The Tragedy of the Middle East

Outsiders, who have often been drawn to the region as invaders and occupiers, cannot simply stamp out the jihadist cause or impose prosperity and democracy. That much, at least, should be clear after the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq in Military support—the supply of drones and of a small number of special forces—may help keep the jihadists in Iraq at bay.

That help may have to be on permanent call. Even if the new caliphate is unlikely to become a recognisable state, it could for many years produce jihadists able to export terrorism. But only the Arabs can reverse their civilisational decline, and right now there is little hope of that happening.

The Middle East's cold war, explained

The extremists offer none. In a time of chaos, its appeal is understandable, but repression and stagnation are not the solution. They did not work before; indeed they were at the root of the problem. Even if the Arab awakening is over for the moment, the powerful forces that gave rise to it are still present.

The social media which stirred up a revolution in attitudes cannot be uninvented. The men in their palaces and their Western backers need to understand that stability requires reform. Is that a vain hope? Today the outlook is bloody. But ultimately fanatics devour themselves.

Meanwhile, wherever possible, the moderate, secular Sunnis who comprise the majority of Arab Muslims need to make their voices heard.

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And when their moment comes, they need to cast their minds back to the values that once made the Arab world great. Education underpinned its primacy in medicine, mathematics, architecture and astronomy.

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Trade paid for its fabulous metropolises and their spices and silks. And, at its best, the Arab world was a cosmopolitan haven for Jews, Christians and Muslims of many sects, where tolerance fostered creativity and invention. Pluralism, education, open markets: these were once Arab values and they could be so again.

But for a people for whom so much has gone so wrong, such values still make up a vision of a better future. Join them. Subscribe to The Economist today. Media Audio edition Economist Films Podcasts. New to The Economist? On May 14, of course, Ben-Gurion made the proclamation of the State of Israel, and almost immediately armies from five Arab countries attacked the newborn state.

The Jordanians arrived on the north side of the city on May 19 and prevented further advances by the Jewish forces. Ben-Gurion met with his general staff early the following week and listed his priorities. First, Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev. Second, offense and not defense. Third, defeat one party at a time. Fourth, force the hand of the Arab Legion. By May 28, however, with the help of career British officers, the Arab Legion had brought the Jewish Quarter to the point of surrender.

But the supposedly numerically outmatched Israelis in fact always had superiority, more so as the war continued.

Effects of First World War an ongoing tragedy in Middle East

Subsequently released documents also show that the Arabs were each interested in fighting for reasons other than to help the Palestinians. The notion of a cohesive Arab front does not stand up. King Abdullah certainly had a different agenda. Long-standing Hashemite pragmatism dictated willingness to live alongside the Jewish people for the sake of peace and prosperity.

A general cease-fire came into effect on June 11, West Jerusalem, including Palestinian areas where the population had been driven out, were under Jewish control.

Effects of First World War an ongoing tragedy in Middle East | Arab News

Fighting soon resumed, however, and on September 26 Ben-Gurion put a new plan before the cabinet. He proposed launching an attack to take the whole city, but the vote went against him. He suppressed publication of the proposal, not wanting to embarrass those who had voted against it. When the war ended in January Jerusalem remained divided. Did the Jordanians sense that Ben-Gurion wanted the whole city? There are some indications of this. The first one concerns the economic underdevelopment of East Jerusalem during its nearly 20 years under Jordanian rule — : the Jordanians emphasized Amman and the East Bank while neglecting the economic growth of the West Bank.

The reason was not just preference for the Hashemite capital of Amman. In his memoirs he wrote that in , weeks before the end of the Mandate, a Haganah officer had mentioned to an Arab Legion officer that the Jews knew what the Legion was about to do in Arab Palestine. He then said that the Jews did not mind as long as the Legion did not interfere with Zionist forces in Jerusalem. Though Ben-Gurion signed armistice agreements in January , his comments to the cabinet a few months later put his willingness to stop short of a united Jewish Jerusalem in context.

Explaining why he did not rush into peace treaties, he said he believed that Israel had time on its side in all the major issues—borders, refugees and Jerusalem. On the latter, he felt that the idea of internationalization was fading as people grew accustomed to the status quo. It was a perspective that matched his long-term vision that eventually the Zionist goal would be fully achieved, including repossession of all of Jerusalem.

As long as practicalities demanded a different situation, then he could rationalize less-than-complete outcomes. However, his overall goals remained intact.

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The Second World War was also significant but it did not re-model the region in quite the same way. The make-up of the three provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul created an ungovernable state. French rule over Syria was one of continual territorial amputation — carving off Lebanon and giving Alexandretta to Turkey.

British forces may have ultimately prevailed, but embarrassments at Gallipoli that affected Winston Churchill even in the Second World War , Gaza and Kut Al-Amara in Iraq revealed that the great empire was no longer invulnerable. British arrogance led to ill-conceived campaigns that foretasted its diplomacy post-war. It may not have seemed so at the time, but this was the dying moments of the British Empire.

The ultimate question is whether the Middle East will ever be able to progress and resolve its conflicts without addressing all of the persisting post-First World War challenges. The second part of the Balfour Declaration regarding the rights of Palestinians is unimplemented and awaits a Palestinian state. The Kurds deserve, if not the same, at least genuine autonomy. For Iraq and Syria, perhaps only remodeled forms of governance, more decentralized and accountable, could lead them away from the cataclysmic disasters that have afflicted their peoples.

Perhaps Europe may have recovered from the Great War but, for the Middle East, it is an ongoing tragedy. He has worked with the council since after graduating with a first-class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic studies at Exeter University. Twitter: Doylech. View the discussion thread. Chris Doyle. Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view.

The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East

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