Telescoping this crazy Middle East

ZOOM IN: I am visiting Israel with a group of Australian Labor people and Trade Unionists. After the group has left, I stay with my daughter and son-in-law who have made Aliyah. We drive into Jerusalem centre two nights ago and as we pass a major round-a-bout 5 minutes from where they live, army vehicles arrive and soldiers in full gear pour out of armoured cars; lights, sirens and guns are everywhere. We check our phones and 6 minutes previously two Arabs have attempted to stab and kill someone at this place.

I am about to leave Israel in 24 hours and can only think of my children’s safety, and immediately make them swear to me they will only travel by car while this craziness continues.

ZOOM OUT: The real Tsunamis occur elsewhere. In the scheme of things, there are few lives being lost in Israel at the moment. While a single life lost is a tragedy, the much more difficult and major problem is a Middle East falling apart, with more turbulence and violence to come that is affecting tens if not hundreds of millions.

Libya is a failed state and a new centre for ISIS and ISIS-like fundamentalist Jihadists. Boko Harem slaughters, rapes and enslaves its way across north Nigeria. Egypt struggles to regain stability after the attempted Islamic coup by the Muslim Brotherhood, and is fighting a vicious insurgency in Sinai. Sudan — the country of hundreds of thousands of dead Darfurians — left alone now to continue ethnic, racial and religious cleansing of it’s population. Syria — or what was Syria, where everything has disintegrated and whose vicious war is being fought on the backs of civilians. Yemen, the cradle of a once ancient civilisation is being torn apart by fierce air and ground fighting. Iraq, the once-country that is now an effective tri-polar state. We have tuned out of the daily sectarian bombings there that take the lives of tens and hundreds of civilians every week.

And on it goes.

What is going on in this region is changing the world with unknown consequences. No one can predict anything with certainty here other than continued slaughter and break-down of the Middle East as we knew it. It ain’t going back to what it was.

ZOOM IN: Some call this the Facebook Intifada — the endless incitement in Palestinian social media to kill Jews spread by Hamas, ISIS, local muftis and others.

I know enough of history to recall that in the 1920s, many local Jews were killed by rioting Arabs who were incited to “defend Al-Aqsa.” The religious cause to kill Jews then and now has seemingly little to do with the presence of a State of Israel.

A friend tells me she hears a speaker describe this as akin to the earthquakes Californians live with. Painful but actually manageable.

ZOOM OUT: Beneath these realities lie the simmering undercurrents that will feed the regional disasters for years to come:

The war for Islamic purity and domination between Shiite and Sunni. Put otherwise as Iran vs everyone else in the region. Iran has fomented insurgency (Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia) and created proxy armies and terror-based non-state actors (such as Hezbollah and various Syrian groups) to foment Shii revolution across the region. Sectarianism in its purest form.

These wars have displaced millions of Arabs that no one in this region will offer safe haven. These swirling, and often starving refugee flows, will bend and break borders for a long time.

The call to Jihad that has attracted so many here and in the West. It seems inconceivable to us in the West that a return to 7th century brutal lifestyle is something to be revered.

It is crazy here. Seriously and maddeningly mashuga. And the ironies are endless.

The one place Jews cannot pray is on the Temple Mount — the holiest spot in Judaism.

Western bourgeois want to boycott and demonise Israel while not giving any thought to a region that continues to explode. Israel — the only place where Christians and Muslims are most safe, LGBT can come out, and where people all get the vote. And the only country in the region — the only country — where women are equal in law and culture.

Israel now builds barriers in parts of East Jerusalem effectively separating the oft-proclaimed “indivisible” city.

Where Arabs with butchers knives go on the rampage to kill whoever they can and Israelis are blamed for shooting back.

It’s madness here.

But I know one thing from this trip: most everyone wants to live in peace and build decent lives. I have heard this from Israeli and Palestinian alike. It’s about jobs and livelihood. Truthfully, I do think the Palestinians would rather Israel disappear, but because the homeland of the Jews is not going anywhere, there is an acceptance that this is the way it is and let’s just get on with it.

The most pressing problem seems to be a lack of real leadership on both sides.

About the Author
Co-convenor of the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue. Director of Blended Learning Group (Emotional Intelligence and Leadership training) Director of Bowerbase (IT start-up) Director of Soldales Pacific (Water technology start-up linking Israel and Australia).
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