The Magic Card Called Israel

June 10, 2011

by Avi Melamed

In this short article I would like to share with you a basic rule regarding Israel and the Arab world.

The rule is simple – Israel was, is, and to many Arabs will continue to be – a tool, a platform upon which Arab politicians, leaders, scholars, journalists and others could gain popularity, fame and support.

Israel is a sure card for these people and many others in the Arab world.  You can always incite against Israel, criticize Israel, attack Israel, and condemn Israel.  That’s a great way to escape responsibility, to avoid the need to confront the real challenges and along the way to gain popularity.

A perfect example for that rule was given these very days during the meeting of the Arab League in Cairo. A keynote speaker in the conference was the Turkish Prime Minister Ardwan.

In his speech Ardwan was talking only about one thing: “Israel’s crimes” and the need to lift the siege over the Gaza Strip,

While Ardwan was speaking, Arab protestors outside the building demonstrate over the massacre of the Syrian people by their own regime. Ardwan and Assad had long honeymoon prior to the rebellion of the Syrian people.  As the oppression of the rebellion became more and more brutal, the honeymoon was over.  In the last months Ardwan’s tone and his messages to Assad became more and more tough.  At some point, Ardwan threatened to send the Turkish army into Syria in order to create a buffer zone between the Syrian citizens and the oppressing Syrian regime.

Ardwan apparently likes to make threats, but Assad clearly is not impressed with Ardwan’s Threats. The oppression of the Syrian people became more brutal.

Ardwan did nothing.  Or  to be more accurate: Turkey turned over to the Assad regime a Syrian high rank officer that defected the Syrian army and established a group of defecting Syrians who did not want to take part in the brutal oppression of their brothers and sisters.

Ardwan will be very happy to be portrayed today in the Muslim world as “The modern Sallah Addin,” the great Muslim leader who liberated Jerusalem from the rule of the Crusaders in 1187.

History clearly has a sense of irony.  Sallah Addin was not Arab.  He was a Kurd.  Ardwan, the prime minister of Turkey is leading a tough non-compromising line against the demands of the Kurds in Turkey (about 15 Million) to have independence.  In fact, over the last couple of weeks, the Turkish army is indiscriminately attacking Kurdish villages in the northern part of Iraq. Recent threats were made by the Turks that they are considering a massive military ground operation in Northern Iraq in order to smash the Kurdish military backbone.

And so Ardwan could make his speech waving the Israeli card again and again.  As if Syrians are not massacred by their own regime, as if Turkey doesn’t slaughter the Kurds, as if Egypt is not experiencing a rocking, dangerous crisis.

Attack Israel, criticize Israel; condemn Israel.  That is the ultimate diversion and it always works

Or does it?

Here is the essence of a message that was send to Ardwan following his speech by Mr. Tarik Alhumeid, the chief-editor of the influential Arab newspaper Ashara Al Awsat:

“You should realize that the Arab world is changing. The days you can divert people minds and bypass the real challenges of the Arab world by the use of hollow, shallow slogans are over.”

Mr. Alhumeid is right. In the heart of the events that rock the Arab world, described by some as “The Arab Spring” (personally I don’t like that term. I prefer “The Arab Awakening”) lies exactly that demand. People in the Arab world are saying: We are done with hollow, shallow slogans. We demand real answers for our real challenges.

This is enormously important change. It gives hope for a better future.

Yet, sadly, the use of the Israel card is not going to vanish.  People like Ardwan will still use that card, and they will not suffer the lack of followers.

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