World attention is uniquely transfixed on Israel in a way that fails to compare to other conflicts around the globe. With a larger international media presence here than for any other conflict, and with more UN condemnations than any other, the way Israel has been singled out is supremely odd. But if you’ve made up your mind that Israel is the source for what is wrong in the Middle East, why bother confusing yourself with facts and perspective?
In Israel we are fully aware of the addiction the world has with us when it comes to the Middle East conflict, both on a policy level, as well as within public discourse.
Israel has one of the highest concentrations of journalists in the world, reflecting intense worldwide interest in the conflict. There are hundreds of foreign news organizations based in Jerusalem alone, employing reporters, cameramen and technicians, reaching far above the four-digit threshold.
We can also claim the ‘prize’ of having been singled out amongst all of the United Nations 193 member states for having received far more UN condemnations than any other, including a long list of actual human rights abusing countries.
A common fundamental belief is that if Israel only left the occupied territories then the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be over, and consequently the other conflicts in the Middle East could be solved as well. Not that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians isn’t important. It most certainly is. And we, Israelis and Palestinians alike, desperately need a solution. However…
The obsession the world has with Israel is no less than outlandishly strange.
I recently read an excellent post by Swedish author and entrepreneur, Thomas Gür, in which he illustrated how remarkable this particular focus on Israel is. Gür, who is of Turkish origin and was assigned as a UN officer in Lebanon in the 80’s, reflected that those who believe that Israel is at the core of the struggles and wars in this region are both simplistic and historically extremely ignorant. To emphasize his point, Gür compiled a fascinating list of current Middle East conflicts of different intensities going on between:
Persians and Arabs;
Arabs and Turks;
Turks and Persians;
Turks and Armenians;
Armenians and Arabs;
Persians and Armenians;
Azeris and Persians;
Azeris and Arabs;
Azeris and Kurds;
Armenians and Azeris;
Azeris and Turks;
Turks and Kurds;
Kurds and Arabs;
Kurds and Persians;
Kurds and Armenians;
Christians and Muslims;
[In Lebanon, the Maronites and the Druze and Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims and Palestinians, and secular and religious from various groups and within groups of different factions within the Maronites, the Sunnites and the Shiites [Amal and Hezbollah]);
Islamists and all other;
Islamists and Muslims;
Shia Islamists and Sunni Islamists;
Druze and Muslims;
Shiites and Sunnites;
Alevi (of Turkey) and Sunnites;
Alawites (of Syria) and Sunnites;
Arabs and Bedouins;
Christians and Christian (a large number of different faiths);
Yazidis and all other;
Nationalist Arabs and nationalist Arabs (different shades and specializations);
Socialist Arab and anti socialist Arab;
Baathists and Baathists;
Sunnites and Sunnites (different law schools);
Shiites and Shiites (different law schools);
Salafists and all Muslims;
IS and all other;
Turkmens and Arabs;
Turkmens and Kurds;
Turks and Turkmens;
Arabs and Palestinians (in Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, etc.);
In Israel, between Israeli Arabs and Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, between Jews of different affiliations and between Jews originating from different countries, between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, and other smaller groups such as the Circassians, Jewish Kurds, etc.;
It is also likely that there are at least a dozen other conflicts in the region, and many of those in this list have been going on much longer than the one between Palestinians and Israelis.
Yet with all this in mind you need look no further than your latest newsfeed to find daily ‘burden of blame’ placed on Israel. As the text of this op-ed is being finalized, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, tweeted about his three-day visit to the UK where he had meetings at the Department for National Development, the Foreign Office and parliament.
“Discussed instability in Middle-East and need to keep clear focus on situation of Palestine refugees in the region, including Syria”, tweeted Krähenbühl. With this statement he makes a solid attempt in claiming that the predicament of the Palestinians are in fact key to the volatile situation in the entire Middle East region.
With his intriguing list, Gür prompted me to ponder the worlds obsession with Israel deeper than I have before. But perhaps we shouldn’t confuse our friends around the globe with some perspective? After all, ignorance is bliss. Forget the actual complexities of the Middle East, forget the plight of other peoples, and, as the UNWRA chief wants, you need to focus clearly on the Palestinian refugees in order to grasp the instability in the Middle East.
‘If Israel only ceased the occupation…’