It is the end of the summer on the North American east coast, and all the seasonal fruits are ripening at once. This means the cantaloupes, watermelons, peaches and red and black berries that often end up in a big fruit salad. One can only eat so much luscious fruit, trying to stay ahead of its going bad.
So too the abundance of contradictions ripening on the world stage this very hour has me frantically trying to keep up with it all. Here is a brief attempt. Like a fruit salad there are many flavors and tastes here; not all of them flow seamlessly, but hopefully they do come together in a mélange of sorts.
The news that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia supports the Egyptian military is a ripened irony of real import. For decades the oil-rich country has been exporting Wahabi fanaticism on an industrialized, global scale. The U.S. got its taste on 9/11.
The Pakistanis have been served generous helpings of Koranic fanaticism in their madrasas via the Saudis for decades—with the predictable results of violence and mayhem, ignorance and intolerance. So too did the Afghanis have this alien ideology foist upon them. The Saudis seem to practice a mercantile jihadism, only for export. The domestic market is carefully monitored by the government and no real threat to the monarchy is allowed to emerge.
Egypt was the most recent and unlucky recipient of this Wahabi curse. Although the major Salafi party in Egypt, Al-Nour, officially supported the Egyptian military’s removal of Morsi and has maintained a relatively neutral position on the resultant turmoil, Saudi money has almost without a doubt influenced Egyptian Islamists that the Saudi government has now given the Egyptian military a blank check to fight. With cash payments to extremist preachers and operatives, the Saudis have introduced a new strain of extremist Islam into the body politic of Egypt. Through the numerous satellite channels crammed with bearded and robed Salafi and extremist preachers, the poor and credulous have been led to believe that all their problems can be solved by adhering to the Koran and the word of the Prophet. This is the terrorism and terrorists secular Egyptians and the Egyptian army’s generals are referring to when they brand their opponents as such.
Yet now the Saudi king backs the counterrevolution. Had he shut down the exporting of these destabilizing religious fanatics with their endless, contradictory, and often absurd fatwas there may not have been so many violent religious extremists in Egypt to begin with. That goes for Pakistan and Afghanistan too. The development and encouragement of political cancer sometimes blows back to the homeland. This is what worries the Saudi monarchy, and it should. These Wahabi fanatics have no respect for temporal, nationalistic kings and princes. Let’s hope, and—if you wish—pray that the Saudi government shuts down the whole Wahabi operation on their ground. That step would save more lives and stabilize more governments—not to mention prevent another 9/11—than anything else in the world right now.
Turning to the Israeli arena, what could Bibi be thinking when he agreed to more peace talks and then immediately announced more housing units in the “settlements”? That one is easy. If you have the upper hand in any negotiation, show it early and often. With Arab and Muslim unity in the countries surrounding Israel reduced to a block by block affair, the Palestinians really do not have much in the way of political leverage. The usual suspects who can be counted on to issue statements of support for the Palestinians are a bit distracted these days. Hassan Nasrallah, for example, has brought the Sunni car bomb brigade to his neighborhood. Ditto Maliki in Iraq. Iran’s Rouhani also seems to have more pressing problems—like the collapse of his economy. This may have been evident at Iran’s Al Quds Day this year, which seemed to have been a bit more subdued than usual. Even though Bibi jumped the gun on the poor translation of Rouhani’s speech regarding Palestine, it really was a side show. Any reliable poll of the Iranian public and their prioritized worries might find nearly no one putting Palestine on their list.
This is the reality Abbas finds himself in. So Bibi could really not contain his glee in announcing new apartment construction. Yet the possible positive news here is that for the very first time in generations the Palestinians are free to decide their own fate. The Arab world has turned the light off on their struggle. The contradictions so sharp in the world today have reduced the potency of the Arab street to that of a ghost city in China. There is no one home. Even Hamas is quaking in their tunnels as to what will befall them next. They are friendless and alone—the energy drained from their message, their mission one of failure.
This is the time for both sides to be realistic, seize the moment and reach at least an interim agreement for Palestinian self-rule and Israeli boots off the ground. This is the moment for Israel to show the world it is not like its neighbors, locked in endless strife born in the past. Israel can show that it is a modern, adaptive state that is not only technologically innovative but a place where politics are the ying to the yang of its renowned economy.
Anyway, the fruit is ripening and it’s time to taste it before fall comes and it is too late.