I have known Salim Mansur for fifteen years. We began as colleagues and over the years have become close friends. We are as different as chalk and cheese. Salim is a devout Sunni Muslim from Calcutta and I am a Conservative Jew from Toronto living in Israel. However, both of us believe in Western Civilization, liberal democracy and freedom of religion. This gives us common ground.
I have just returned to Canada from Israel to visit family and friends. Given the momentous outbreak of peace between Israel and the Gulf States I asked Salim what he thought about these world historical shifts in alignment.The questions in this piece are mine. The answers are Salim’s.
What are the internal dynamics in the Islamic world that have contributed to these new peace agreements between Israel and the Arab world?
In the world of Islam, the divide is now increasingly visible between those Muslims who rally round their nation-states and those who support the ideology of the Caliphate/Globalism in terms of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and as we see with the Sunni supporters of Erdogan in the Middle East. The recent peace agreements between Israel and UAE, and Bahrain, with more to follow (Sudan seems to be in the pipeline) if there is a second term for President Trump, reflects the breakdown of Arab tribal politics under the banner of Arabism for secular Arab leaders, and Islamism for the traditional emirs, such as the Saudi dynasty, and the long overdue coming together more clearly of the idea of nationalism, based on the unique identity of the respective states.
Remember the famous saying of the Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir from the Nasser era that Arab countries of the Middle East were merely “tribes with flags?” Well, after more than half-century of failed and destructive tribal politics in support of Palestinians on the basis of tribal identity, a new sense of nation-state politics is replacing that older identity, and it is that growing awareness of national interest that has helped unburden the Gulf states from failed politics of the past to pursue their national interests by embracing Israel.
The next few states to make peace with Israel will be, I believe, Sudan, Oman, Morocco, Tunisia, and then Saudi Arabia. And once Saudi Arabia officially signs a peace agreement with Israel, it will be followed by a cascade of non-Arab Muslim states from Nigeria to Malaysia doing the same.
This is, of course, completely contrary to the Globalist agenda of imposing peace agreements through the UN and the support for the PA with which to keep bashing Israel. Here again, recall, that President Anwar Sadat of Egypt went to Jerusalem in November 1977 surprising everyone, including the Israelis, in search of peace by deliberately side-stepping the formula of the UN-brokered peace agreements under the aegis of the United States and the Soviet Union as co-sponsors of any Arab-Israeli meetings in Geneva or New York. It is not an irony that the Palestinian cause is the UN/Globalist cause to keep the OIC and the Arab League within the framework of the Globalist agenda and Globalism under the UN banner.
At the same time the rise and persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe and North America cannot be separated from the politics of the Globalists, and the Globalist support for BDS pushed by the media, academia and paramilitary organizations such as BLM and Antifa supported by the billionaire oligarchs, like George Soros.
Is the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative opposition a reflection of Globalists versus Nationalists?
My answer is counter intuitive, and it is a definitive No!
The Laurentian elite and the “Laurentian consensus” in Canadian culture and politics includes the top brass of the Conservative party. Consequently, the difference in any policy term or media optics between the Liberals and the Conservatives is merely a “brand” difference, since the two parties are in effect controlled by the Laurentian elite and are part of that elite structure or “family compact,” that have run Canadian politics through much of its history.
This is why neither of the two parties, and their respective leadership, will publicly take the position of terminating the Chinese penetration into the Canadian economy, especially their purchase of the Canadian resource sector.
Harper sold Nexen, and Justin Trudeau simply carries on where Jean Chretien and Paul Martin paused with the Chinese penetration after their term in office. Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney originated the sell-out to the ChiCom following the death of Mao Zedong and the beginning of the post-Mao transition in 1977. It is done under the banner of Power Corporation’s deal-making with the ChiCom through the Canada-China Business Council, which was set up by Paul Desmarais as the Founder and Chairman of the Council.
How does any of this impact the Canadian and American Jewish communities of these two democracies? Are they acting in their own best interests?
No they are not. Jewish Canadians, or a growing segment of the community, are now invested with the Conservative party on the argument that removing Trudeau from office is the over-all priority in Canadian politics. But the sad sell-out part of the equation is that the Conservatives are merely “Liberal lite.” They buy into the whole UN agenda with its knee jerk anti-Israel nonsense, and which has been well documented.
Despite the public pronouncements of the so-called pro-Israel organizations of Canadian and American Jews in the diaspora they end up largely serving the Globalists, acting as if they have no state of their own to defend from the Globalist agenda ridden with its anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli prejudices. Jews in the North American diaspora should be strongly in support of Israel, but they support it less and less. The Pew Foundation, for instance, has studied this phenomenon well. One can read the Pew reports online.
Hence, the fundamental divide among the Jews are those who stand with Israel (and, therefore, in America support unequivocally President Trump) and those who support the Globalist agenda and are the most vociferous Never-Trumpers. It is quite sad, and the consequences of such division will drive the Jews who are pro-Globalists against the politics of the anti-Globalist nationalists in the U.S. and in Canada. The knee-jerk reaction of so many left leaning Jewish intellectuals in the media, especially the Never-Trumpers, in branding those supporting the politics of nationalism as “white” nationalists, meaning proto-fascists, will be hugely counter-productive, since the anti-Globalist nationalists in the U.S. and in Canada are the strongest supporters of Israel in the West.
Canada increasingly is becoming a “hollow-state” (in Justin Trudeau’s mindset, a country with no core value) run by “hollow-men.” Though PPC (People’s Party of Canada) is a “poor” version of Trump’s America First politics, yet it is the only non-Globalist party in Canada and at present, the only party engaged in a rear guard action in defense of Canada as a nation-state. This is a sad truth.
You have visited Israel many times and three years ago you and I went to Jerusalem to give lectures on the future of the Middle East. Where has the American and Canadian Jewish communities gone wrong?
I think that the American Jewish community, and this is confirmed, is 80% Democrat. And the democrats are now more and more anti Zionist. The loudest voices of this new generation of anti-Zonist anti-Israeli Democrats are not surprisingly those of Linda Sarsour, and of Representatives in the U.S. Congress Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is as if Jewish Americans identify with their own aggressor. I think this is the called Stockholm syndrome at play. Canadian Jews believe the Conservatives are different, but as I said before, they are simply “Justin lite” and will kowtow to the Chinese, the Islamists and the UN. Political entryism of Islamists into the Conservative party is now open and undeniable and it brought Andrew Scheer, the previous leader of the party, and his national director, Hamish Marshall, to disallow me from seeking the nomination to be a candidate during the 2019 election by alleging that I am an “Islamophobe” because of my writings and my public critique of Islamism and Islamists.
Any other comments?
Yes, a few; these are comments and insights which could be backed up with a lot of hard data. Suffice it is to say that Israel seems to have proved itself to the Gulf Arabs. The Arabs take pride in their warrior culture. They respect strength, military prowess and daring, and Israel has proven its own indomitable warrior culture to the Arabs repeatedly. And, I believe, Arab anti-Semitism anti-Zionism since 1948 at the creation of Israel was largely, if not entirely, driven by their tribalism. The politics of tribalism expresses itself in terms of ethno-racist bigotry and religious dogmatism, or sectarianism. Tribalism is not merely, or only, a Muslim problem; it is the problem inherent in all societies that have not yet made the full transition from pre-modernity to modernity, from the politics constrained by the social construct of collectivism or group identity or casteism to modern democratic politics, based on individual rights and freedoms.
Are there any writers, dead or alive who had some idea that these events may come to pass?
Yes. It was Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most important historian of Arab and Middle East politics and student of Islam of his generation, who observed in his famous study, The Jews of Islam, that in “Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic sacred history.” In other words, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, or anti-Judaism cannot be traced back in theological terms to Islam as a religion, as it can be in Christianity. The anti-Israeli politics of the Arabs is rooted in their tribalism, which morphed in modern history into proto-nationalism of a people against the historic claims of Jews to reconstitute their state in Mandated Palestine or the ancient Judea-Samaria.
Are there any past events that seem to foreshadow these changes or are they absolutely unprecedented?
There is the intriguing picture from 1918 taken in Palestine, or also known as Transjordan, of the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann together with Prince Faisal, the leader of the Arab Revolt and the son of Sharif Hussein of Hejaz where Mecca and Medina are located. Prince Faisal represented at the time the face of a nascent Arab nationalism, or proto-nationalism, in the region that would be swept aside by the tide of tribal politics driven by religious and sectarian identity of the Arab tribes of the desert. In Palestine this tribal politics under the banner of Islam was pushed by the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin el-Husseini, who was ironically appointed to that high office after the war of 1914-18 by the British Commissioner in Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, an English Jew.
What do you say about those who say it is all about Islamic religious prejudice and this is just the first thaw?
I have pointed out in my own writings, and in my remarks in the conference in Jerusalem in 2017 which I attended with you, that the historic rights of Jews in Palestine are narrated in the Qur’an and these rights are fully protected in Islam’s most sacred text. These verses in the Qur’an were the subtext of the address by the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt when he spoke at the Knesset in his historic visit to the Jewish capital in November 1977. Indeed, Sadat invoked repeatedly the shared history of Jews and Arabs, as narrated in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an. He spoke of Abraham as the Patriarch of both Jews and Arabs and, in this sense laid the foundation of what President Trump described as the “Abraham Accords” recently signed by the Israeli leadership and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain in Washington, D.C.
There has always been a tribal element in the social organization of Islamic peoples. How does modernization theory make sense of any of this?
I consider how history is viewed through which lens, pre-modern and tribal or modern and respectful of the “other”, will be decisive eventually in shaping the world we want to see for ourselves and for generations to come after us. In the Middle East, the heart of the quarrel between Arabs and Jews is how their linked history is viewed through which lens.
A hundred years ago at the end of World War I the Arab world, including most of what historians came to describe as the third world, were pre-modern societies. A hundred years later these societies are in the thick of the transition from pre-modern to modern, from the politics of tribes to the politics of statehood, which means like snakes these societies are shedding their “old” reptilian skin and slowly, gradually, even painfully, emerging wearing the “new” skin of the modern age that they can no longer resist or deny if they are to progress. These epochal transitions take time. Europe’s transition from the pre-modern to the modern took several centuries, and the process of transition is non-linear.
Might there be setbacks to these new alignments?
There might be setbacks in the Middle East. The religious clerics in Iran loyal to the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s innovations in Shi’a Islam remain fixated with their anti-Israeli annihilationist politics. But Khomeini’s Islamic Republic of Iran is beset with its own internal conflicts, it is increasingly unpopular, and it is not unlikely sooner than later a counter-revolution in Iran led by Iranians seeking freedom from clerical rule will restore Iran’s relations with Israel to the period before the fall of the Shah’s rule in 1979. This too will be a return for Iranians to the ancient history of Persia with the Jews in modern dress, and flourish in the contemporary language of national interests.
As Arabs and Muslims shed their tribal politics, they will begin to view their history with new lens and understand how their tribalism perverted their own understanding and practice of Islam. They will then have their own Enlightenment, the seeds of which remain buried in their own history, of how tribal politics anathemized and crushed free-thinking Muslims that ended the brief venture into the “age of rationalism” in Islamic history more than a thousand years ago, around the time of ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Maimonides. And the role of Jews in this period of Islamic history will be rediscovered and provide new impetus in the politics of Jews and Arabs, Jews and Muslims.
As it is easy to deal with an enemy but sometimes hard to deal with a friend Will Jews and Israelis need to look at their neighbours differently?
Yes, there is also the need for a reawakening of Jews in their understanding of Islam and Muslim history. Jews, especially Jews in the diaspora, will need to rethink the history of the past hundred years from the Balfour Declaration to the recent developments and more to come, in which increasingly Israel will play a prominent role in assisting Arab states make the transition to modernity and democracy as the leading technological power in the Middle East. For Jews outside of Israel the challenge ironically is to temper their secularism, or left-wing “progressivism” that gets pushed under the banner of Tikkun Olam, by their faith-tradition and, in terms of their adherence to Abrahamic monotheism, in recognizing their religious kinship with Islam and Muslims.
Edward Said, a Palestinian-Arab Christian, set out to describe Orientalists, that is the western students of the Orient or the East, in his book Orientalism in sinister terms as ideologues of western imperialism, colonialism, and as bigots and racists. But contrary to Said, the Orientalists and the best among them, such as Bernard Lewis whom Said set out to wrongfully vilify, painstakingly devoted themselves to not only relate the history and culture of the Orient to the people in the West, but also to retrieve much of that culture and its artifacts that had become lost to the people of the Orient.
Lewis was one among countless Jews who devoted themselves to the study of Islam, of Arabs and Muslims, and their culture and civilization. I believe they were attracted to the study of Islam not merely because it was a subject worthy of study, but also because they were drawn to it by a feeling of kinship and religious intimacy as, for instance, Ignaz Goldziher and S.D. Goitein and Maxime Rodinson described in their respective works.
This rich tradition among Jews of the study of Islam, Arabs and Muslims is of immense importance in setting the table, so to speak, of the new Middle East at peace between Israel, Arab and Muslim states in the coming decades. Sadat foresaw this possibility and became a martyr to this vision.
Any concluding thoughts?
Yes. I recall a scene in the film Ben Hur when Charlton Heston as Ben Hur meets an Arab horse trader who says to him something like, “Jews and Arabs, we could do great things together.” I think that day is dawning. I certainly hope so.
For those who do not know, Salim Mansur is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. He is a former columnist for the London Free Press and the Toronto Sun, and has contributed to various publications including National Review, the Middle East Forum and Frontpagemag.