In The Footsteps of Fouad Ajami

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools” [Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher, 1820-1903]

During Joe Biden’s March 2016 visit, to Israel, then US Vice President, “He spoke about feeling at home in the Jewish State, about the ‘unbreakable bond’—impervious to any shifts between it and the United States, which has no better friend than Israel. He quoted his father and Golda Meir, and referred to the prime minister as “Bibi”. He called for the release of Gilad Shalit, the IDF corporal held hostage by Hamas, and for peace with the Palestinians—all to exuberant applause.

But then he turned to the Ramat Shlomo plan, which, he said, undermined the trust required for productive negotiations. At the request of President Obama, I condemn it immediately and unequivocally.”

The foregoing  statement refers to so-called “settlements” appears on Page 138 of Michael Oren’s book “Ally.” It is a prelude to what Israel can now expect under the current Biden Administration, a return to the infamous ‘Two State Solution” rejected by then President Donald Trump.

On June 1, 2011, The Wall Street Journal published, “The UN Can’t Deliver a Palestinian State” by Fouad Ajami. He was a professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was a co-chair of the Hoover Working Group on Islamism and the International Order. Sadly, he passed away on June 22, 2014 at age 68 from cancer.

In the given paper, he addresses the prelude to the vote on Nov.29, 1947, concerning the partition of Palestine. The Arab and Muslim states were unalterably opposed, for partition was a warrant for a Jewish state. In the end, the vote favored partition, the US backed the resolution, and 2 days later the Soviet Union followed suit. It was a close call : 10 states had abstained, 13 had voted against, 33 were in favor, only 2 votes over the required two-thirds majority.

The vote in 1947 was viewed as  Israel’s basic title to independence and statehood. “The Palestinian and Arab powers had rejected partition and chosen the path of war. Their choice was to prove calamitous.” The consequence:

The Yishuv  had held its ground and “The elites had made their way to neighboring  lands. Rural communities  had been left atomized and leaderless. The cities had fought, and fallen, alone. Palestine had become a great Arab shame. Few Arabs  were willing to tell the story truthfully, to face its harsh verdict.”Ajami ‘s great virtue was emphasis on truth, a rare attribute among historians and politicians.

He explains how Palestinians grew up  living on a vague idea of restoration and return.  This was because none of their leaders had the courage to inform the refugees who had left Acre, Jaffa and Haifa that they would not be able to recover the homes and orchards of their imagination. Some did  have the keys to their homes as they travelled to Syria and Lebanon  when  they crossed the river to Jordan. For them , there was not much hope of finding political satisfaction.

Virtually  during the same time period, Jews were evicted from homes in Bagdad, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca and Fez. However, for them , the “right of return” was a realistic historical persistence. But, the world is a vastly different place today. “The odds might favor the Palestinians in the General Assembly, but any victory would be hollow.”

The Palestinians had misread what transpired at the General  Assembly in 1947. While the cause of statehood had been served by the vote on partition, in essence  it was perhaps  a fait accompli a decade before the vote. “The hard work had been done in the  prior 3 decades between the Balfour Declaration  of 1917 and the vote on partition. Realism had guided the Zionist project. ‘We will take a state even if it is the size of a tablecloth, said Chaim Weitzman , one of  the founding fathers of the Zionist endeavor.'”

Ajami was particularly critical of Yasser Arafat  who he felt was “neither a Ben-Gurion nor an Anwar Sadat.” “Leadership is often about luck. So, he peddled the dream that history’s verdict could be overturned, that the ‘right of return’ was theirs.

For the  Palestinians, there can be no escape from negotiations with Israel. True Palestinian statehood requires  convincing a decisive Israeli  majority that statehood is a herald  for normalcy in that contested land, for Arabs and Jews alike

As far back as May 9, 2008, Ajami penned “A Reality Check As Israel Turns 60″ in US News and World Report ” He commences, “Of all that has been said and written by Arabs about their encounter with Zionism and Israel, nothing I have seen approximates the truth and poignancy of what a distinguished  Moroccan historian, Abdallah Laroui, has written.: ‘On a certain day everything would be obliterated and instantaneously  reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave,  as if by magic , the land they had  despoiled; in this way will justice be dispensed to the victims, on that day when the presence of God shall again make itself felt.’

“The Arab political imagination had never really probed in a serious way Israel’s place in a region at peace. It had never felt the need to do so.” [Fouad Ajami’s  book  – Dream Palace of the Arabs].

Ajami was of the opinion that “modern day Arabs ” took to the history of the Crusader Kingdom that had risen in the Levant, lasted for 2 centuries [1099-1291], then pulled up stakes and left on the soil its castles and bridges and ruins. In their fantasy, the Arabs were a martial people, while the Jews they had known in Bagdad and Cairo and Damascus had been timid souls keen to avoid the danger of politics and the envy of the crowd. However, “these were different Jews, the Zionists, steeled by the horror of the Holocaust, who would hold their own in the field of battle.”

When the dust of battle settled, the Arabs could see the harvest of their history. In the succeeding decades, the prophecies of calamity  for this Jewish state would not materialize. “Arab perfidy. In their utterances, the Arabs were bound by a code of brotherhood, and the ‘restoration’ of Palestinian rights was the creed of their political world. But in the mirror, Arabs could see their fratricide, the chasm between what they said and what they did.”

With the advent of Joe Biden as America’s President, Israel can anticipate a repeat of the Obama era. Biden over the years was a great admirer of Obama. Today, he appears to want to demonstrate that he is superior to his predecessor. Having this in mind , one recalls, “Muslim Rage and the Obama Retreat” by Fouad Ajami published by The Wall Street Journal on  September 20, 2012. As a serious critique from an American Lebanese professor it speaks volumes to it.

He commences by stating, “This is not a Jimmy Carter moment- a US Embassy and its staff seized and held hostage for 444 days, America’s enemies taking stock of its weakness, its allies running for cover. But the anti-American protests that broke upon 20 nations this past week must be reckoned  a grand personal failure for Barack Obama, and a case of hubris undone.”

He would be a “different president”, he promised, and the years he lived among Muslims would acquit him – and thus America itself. And so, in June 2009, Obama descended on  Cairo. He had opposed the Iraq war, he had Muslim relatives, and he would offer Egyptians, and by extension other Arabs, the promise of a ‘new beginning.’

He spoke of “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated to their own aspirations.”

In all this, he had broken a time-honored maxim of that world: Never speak ill of your own people when in the company of strangers. In the summer of 2009, he came down to earth as Iran erupted in rebellion against its theocratic rulers. An upheaval which exposed the contradictions at the heart of the Obama approach. Contrary to his beliefs, Iran’s clerical rulers had no interest in a breakthrough.”We are the Great Satan, and they need their foreign demons to maintain their grip on power.”

The embattled “liberals” in the region were awakened to the truth of Mr. Obama. “He was a man of the status quo, “with a superficial knowledge of lands beyond. In Cairo, he had described himself as a “student of  history.”As such, during his 1st foreign TV interview, he declared his intention to restore US relations with the Islamic world to “the same respect and  partnership which America had with the Muslim world , as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

This date coincided, almost to the 30th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in Iran! That “golden age” he sought to restore included the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Beirut at the hands of terrorists, deadly attacks on US embassies, the downing f Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and more.

Ajami remarks that a trail of terror had shadowed the American presence as opposed to Obama’s projected plans. There was no withdrawal for either the “good war” in Afghanistan and the bad one in Iraq. As to “Osama bin Laden is dead”, those attacking US embassies had a disturbing rebuttal, “Obama, we are Osama” chanting while brandishing al Qaeda flags.

While proclaiming that the tide of war was receding, Obama had to contend with the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Fouad Ajami proclaims, “A Muslim world that can take to the streets as far away as Jakarta, in protest against a vulgar film depiction of the Prophet Muhammad- yet barely call up a crowd on behalf of s Syrian population that has endured unspeakable  hell at the hands of the dictator Bashar al-Assad – is in  need of self-criticism and repair”,

Summarizing, the numerous failures, Ajami concludes, “Our [US] foreign policy has been altered, as never before, to fit one man’s electoral needs.” One has to wonder what he would say about Bidan, Obama’s student.

In “Fouad Ajami Goes to Israel”, we learn the following:

“In a curious way, exposure to Israel was essential to my coming to terms with Arab political life and its material. At night, a searchlight from the Jewish village of Metullah could be seen from the high ridge on which my village [Arnoun], southern Lebanon] lay. The searchlight was a subject from the land of the Jews, my grandfather said——-”

The New York Times Magazine of November 18, 2001, published a comprehensive article by Fouad Ajami entitled, “What The Muslim  World is Watching.”

From Obama’s Cairo speech on June 4, 2019:

“As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.”

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.