The current instability of the Arab world swirling around Israel is symptomatic of a negative trend in Arab culture and society, namely a turn backward to old familiar values. Most notably, having tried pan-Arabism, Arab socialism and Arab nationalism, all of which have failed to enable them to modernize and defeat Israel, the Arabs are going back to what they think will work, namely Islam. In other words they are retrogressing. (I am pleased to say that Henry Kissinger, in his remarks when receiving an award yesterday from Pres. Peres, made the same point). That is why they have apparently elected a Muslim Brotherhood candidate as President of Egypt. Although the results are not out yet and it is not clear that the Egyptian Army is about to give up power so readily.

Of course, they are wrong, Islam cannot work effectively in the modern world (no religion can), but in effect it is a victory for Israel and the West. Not being able to adapt or modernize, this backward turn will only result in a larger gap between Israel and the Arabs. Sharia law, that is the religious law of Islam, is particularly unsuitable for a modern state. For example, the treatment of women, who are guaranteed equality and civil rights under international law, cannot be treated equally under Sharia law. This removes one of the most efficient elements of society from productive work, not to mention the mistreatment that ensues. As a humanitarian I am against this turn towards Islam, but as an Israel I am quite happy if the Egyptians choose to go backwards instead of forwards. Even they know that they cannot dare to attack Israel, even if they would like to do so.

A serious example of this going backward is that Egypt, that was the first Arab country that signed a peace treaty with Israel, can no longer control the Sinai peninsula. Or maybe they don’t want to. Yesterday there was a deadly attack by terrorists from the Sinai into Israel, the third such attack. Last April, eight people were killed by an attack on the southern border road. Now Israel is building a security barrier, but yesterday the terrorists attacked a convoy of workers going to work on the barrier. One israeli Arab, a father of four, was killed. But, an IDF unit nearby counter-attacked and killed two terrorists. It is not clear what happened to the other two terrorists, if they were captured. It is unclear if these terrorists were sent from Gaza or were Sinai Beduin. In any case, the current instability in Egypt has allowed the Sinai border to return to anarchy, and yet it is difficult if not impossible for Israel to counter-attack into Egyptian territory without engendering a larger reaction. This is one of the costs of Egyptian retrogression.

Similarly in Syria, at present the two sides, Assad’s regime and the Free Syrian Army, are fighting each other. Once this reaches a stalemate or a conclusion, the security situation in Syria will have deteriorated. From a humanitarian viewpoint it would be better if the killing stopped, but the longer they fight each other the better it is from an Israeli perspective.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.