Arab Summer

When I studied behavior in college a couple of decades ago, a professor of mine, a double Ph.D in sociology and psychology spent a lot of time talking about how external factors influence behavior.  We studied how when the mercury climbs, tensions rise, restlessness increases tempers flair. It’s a proven fact that homicides and violence are more likely to occur in the brutal heat of summer.

It is an interesting theory.

Beginning in late 2010 a wave of protests erupted in the middle east, ordinary citizens taking to the streets to demand the freedom and self determination denied to them for generations.  In Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Morrocco and many other places in the middle east courageous people risked their lives and limbs by speaking out and demanding freedom from their dictatorial governments.

It was a watershed moment which the world coined The Arab Spring.

People wondered if this meant that change would finally come to the middle east.  The reactions ranged from hope to cynicism and everywhere in between.  Mostly there was just a lot of curiosity as where the Arab Spring would lead?

This week’s unfortunate events in Libya and anti-American protests in other Arab Spring countries have given us our answer.

Gone is the dewy newness of spring, when everything is just budding, warm, beautiful and full of endless possibilities.  Now the flowers are wilted, the grass is brown and the bugs are just eating away at everything, the lush foliage has given way to withering in preparation for the long cold winter..

I guess, if what is going on in the Middle East can be boiled down to seasons,  my professor would say we are now in the throes of Arab Summer.

Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t coin the phrase Arab Spring, I’m just going with it.

Americans are of course shocked, dismayed and angry to see the US again being attacked by terrorism.  While a critical US election hangs in the balance, Facebook walls,  Twitter and comment feeds everywhere are sputtering with discussion, analysis and arguing about the situation and about what the US should do in the wake of the attack.

I am an American and an Israeli with a deep love for both her countries.  I am someone who has lived in Israel and has seen the tragedies that terrorism brings up close and personal.  I have not been on the sidelines, watching it all  through the eyes of some reporter on the BBC or MSNBC who has an agenda to push.  My apartment was less than a kilometer from the Apropo bombing in 1997 and I was in Jerusalem, less than a kilometer away from two of the Machane Yehuda bombings.  In 2001 as I was on the phone with my then-fiancee, now husband, the windows of my apartment on Gordon Street in Tel Aviv, rattled while an unmistakable boom went off down the street over at the Dolphinarium disco.

So, I guess I know a little something about terrorism and it has been both interesting and frustrating to read what is going on on comment feeds everywhere of how people are processing the events of this week and are sure they know what ‘needs to be done.’

As if there was a simple answer.

I love how people will plunge head first into a position even though history has shown us time and time again that this position doesn’t work.  As if making war is the answer to terrorism?  Haven’t we just gone through a decade of war, stretched the US economy into recession and pushed our nation to a critical point all in the name of fighting a war against terror?  America’s problems are numerous and complicated and don’t boil down to only American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan but a decade of war has certainly played a significant role in emptying America’s coffers.

I don’t know much but what I have come to know through my life experience is that no short term fix to terrorism.  Israel has been at war for more than 60 years, first with her neighbors’ armies and in the last 30 primarily with terrorist groups funded by middle east oil.  The Israeli military have done a lot to ensure the safety of their citizens and to control terrorism in Israel, the number of thwarted attacks far outweighs the number of successful attacks.

But they have not been able to stop terror.  Likewise, the US for the last decade has been engaged in a war against terror and it hasn’t stopped it.  US soldiers faced viscous attacks all the way through the last decade, even though we got rid of Bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein, even though we pushed the Taliban out of Afghanistan for a while and severely damaged them.

All the while terrorism has continued.

Politicians are always talking about how America and Israel share a lot of similarities and how natural it is that the two countries should be allies.  We both have and respect democracy, freedom of expression, dissent.  But Americans and Israelis have a lot in common too.  Israelis and Americans are both opinionated, passionate and ambitious.  Our countries have fostered that in us by giving us freedoms by basically letting our own ambitions decide what our borders are.  That is a wonderful thing.  But we share something else, we  also share an impatience, the uncanny ability to see the world as black or white, we want and respect the quick fix in a lot of situations.

And there’s just no quick fix to stop terrorism.  The last ten years have shown us that making war, whether controlled-target attacks or carpet bombs has not stopped it.

Maybe it is time to look at something else.

About the Author
Dana has made it her habit to break cultural barriers and butcher languages wherever she goes. Born in Pittsburgh, Dana lived and worked in Tel Aviv for five years, before moving to the Netherlands where she lives with her husband and daughter in Amsterdam.