The Minority States

Since the dawn of humanity, the existence of various nations were defined by bloody conflicts, and the definition of war was part of the political characterization of the various nations that inhabited the world. Since the advent of ancient writing, we find that the first wars were between farmers and shepherds, and later on – between regional powers that sought to expand their areas of influence and to conquer lands and population centers. The colonial era brought annexation of territories and control over various countries throughout the world, whereas the dismantling of the great empires and the ensuing international treaties – gave birth to agreed-upon borders between the powers, which were more concerned with the spoils than with the welfare of the populations. Straight line borders – the borders that were drawn by secret agreements between the world powers – were characteristic of the New World in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and created impossible political frameworks with constant friction points, which caused increasingly more violent outbreaks in these regions. The subjugation of various tribes in Africa to live in one region produced catastrophic results throughout the continent. In the 20th century, the forming of states with diverse nationalities, religions, and minorities within a new political framework in the Middle East brought about constant strife and conflict, as none of these states enjoyed peace and prosperity.

The world in its new format was characterized by constant migration and refugees, which generated global unrest, as many more societies were forced to adapt to the new. The immigrants had to build their lives outside their previous frameworks, changing their lifestyle in relation to a different climate and to the nature of life in countries with a different culture, a different worldview, and other factors that affected their way of life.

There is no doubt that the end of the twentieth century positioned refugees as the first and foremost global problem, and triggered a huge upheaval all over the world – both by the phenomenon that was forced on the migrants and by the lifestyle that the migrants forced on their host countries.

Nor is there any doubt that immigration and refugees are a key factor of the threat to world peace, the demographic tensions between various population groups, and the political turmoil that accompanied these tensions. But, the world is once again repeating its mistakes – dealing with past wars rather than facing future dangers.

The heavy weight placed on many countries in the world by the waves of immigration is without a doubt a significant global problem that has no easy solutions. The present global unrest derives from this phenomenon, creating many difficulties for immigrants and hosts alike. The solutions offered are not comprehensive but rather ad hoc answers that do not solve the essence of the problem or its severity.

When dealing with immigration and refugees, the fact becomes clear that the world is neglecting one of the main reasons for the political problems in many countries. The artificial borders that were drawn by the powers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have created the problem of minorities throughout the world. The borders were forced on the population, placed side by side ideological enemies, with enmities based on race, religion, ethnicity, appearances and worldviews. Many natural enemies have no wish or ability to create a shared society. The host countries have become dangerous places, where the immigrant population is akin to a lava flow that erupts beyond the borders and carries its problems to new regions.

However, not only does the refugee problem create difficulties – the immigrants who build their homes in new places automatically become minorities in the host society. These minorities, defined as such, are prevented from integrating in the host society, and thus – the natural friction that caused the refugee problem is passed on, forming a basis and focus of the next conflict in societies throughout the world. Despite all the good will displayed, these host countries have been unsuccessful in creating a haven where they could integrate with equality in any ideological, religious, sociological and economic system.

The more the world is becoming a collection of states comprised of minorities, there is greater longing of the various minorities to unite around the national idea, to become recognized as a collective, national minority with aspirations of independence, to establish exclusive frameworks for the minority itself, and to alienate themselves from other minorities.

Today’s world must deal first of all with understanding the current process that various minorities are undergoing and find common denominators, which would enable cohabitation, a symbiotic life that allows the various minorities to become intertwined in a shared co-existence. If not, the fate of various states in Africa and the Middle East should serve as a warning sign of what is in store for numerous countries worldwide, which appear unprepared for the new reality that was foisted on them.

The phenomenon of dissolving large political units is not only the fate of the African and Asian continents. It can be observed in Europe too, as large political entities that lived together are drifting apart and trying to create new political frameworks. The Balkans have long since dissolved into many small states. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, the former Soviet Union, Belgium – Flanders and Wallonia, the various nationalities in Spain, and even England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – are all shaken by the prevalence of nationalism, which are but a sign for what is happening worldwide.

Refraining from dealing with the issue of ethnic minorities everywhere or providing solutions to ethic coexistence in a wider political reality has been akin to ‘turning a blind eye’ to an increasingly growing problem.

The first necessary conclusion is that the global system must devote thought and resources to dealing with the issue of ethnic minorities throughout the world, and prepare for a new cultural landscape that is gradually leaving its mark on various societies, while examining the implications of this phenomenon for various countries throughout the world.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center