Pieces of a Political Puzzle: Conspiracy Theory Explained. March 13, 2003.
Note: This report being one that deals with national beliefs, does not suppose that there is such a thing as a unanimous Arab or Palestinian belief and recognizes that there is a spectrum of political thought. Therefore the conspiracy theory described below is also just a general statement, and does not include many inter-related explanations in order to provide a fuller picture. It is however a general summary of a popularly held belief.
My whole life I’ve been hearing Palestinians, and Arabs in general, ramble about the conspiracy against them. I often think that holders of such beliefs are usually people not so keen on admitting any social or political “mistakes” they may have collectively made, instead basking in the glorious days of the Muslim Empire, 800 years long dissolved (not including the Ottoman Empire). They tend to go on about the innumerable contributions of Islam: to mathematics, astronomy, literature, sciences, anatomy, poetry, political theory, the list goes on. It is generally accepted that the Muslim world in its glory was budding with innovation and creativity. It is also accepted that many minorities – such as Christians and Jews – lived mostly in peace within the Islamic Empire, although subjected to higher taxes and lesser rights but rarely subjected to genocide or abuse. Arabs eulogize about how, for instance, the Jewish people and their culture flourished during such times, about how many of the Jewish scholars wrote their works in the beautiful and rich Arabic language, that were only much later translated into Hebrew. Or equally revel in the fact that the European Renaissance would not have happened were it not for the contributions of the Islamic world, such as translating the works of the Greek philosophers in which Western Civilization is still strongly embedded. How could the people of such an Empire have lost so much in the course of history and now suffer at the hands of the very people they helped and let thrive?
I frequently dismiss the talk of conspiracy theories as unsubstantiated. Today I want to take the time to explain them instead of judging or dismissing them; and given the global mood of impending war on Iraq, it seems an appropriate time to take into consideration one view of why this war may happen. First I must clarify something, Arabs frequently refer to Israelis and Jews collectively as “Jews”, rarely differentiating between the two. This does not stem from inherent anti-Semitism, but rather because in the eyes of the Arabs (and especially the Palestinians) the difference is minute. Any Jewish person living anywhere in the world has the right to “return” to Israel and take up Israeli citizenship – as is clear in the modern history of Israel, in which most people living in Israel today are either recent descendents of or themselves immigrants; equally, any person with political power in the Israeli government or previously in the Zionist movement is or was Jewish. Few non-Jews belonged to the Zionist project, few non-Jews “immigrate” back to Israel, and no non-Jews are the political decision makers of Israel today. So mistakenly or not, all differentiation is erased by the collective reference of “Jews.” It is also a historical reference, a relic from the days of the Empire when religious identity was synonymous with today’s national identity.
Perhaps the strongest foundation upon which conspiracy theories are built is the fabrications of lies, and to this Arabs attribute much “success” to the Jews. A common claim, for instance, refers to the first lie told by the Jews about the extent of devastation committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Many argue that it seems unreasonable to believe that as many as 6 million Jews were exterminated, especially if many non-Jews suffered the same disastrous fate: gypsies, Arabs, homosexuals, and many others of “non-Aryan” descent. The Arabs do not negate the Holocaust having taken place, but question the quantitative extent of its death toll. In fact some would even go so far as to claim that many Zionists, while objecting to the murder of human beings, saw larger “benefits” in the Holocaust, strengthening the Zionist cause of establishing a homeland in which Jews would be free and safe. After the Holocaust there was no denying of strong and rampant anti-Semitism in the world, and that the Jews needed to be rescued from further persecution and extermination. That the Zionist project took notice of this and turned it into a much convincing marketing scheme is a popular theory. Adherents can only be heartened by the controversial book “The Holocaust Industry” byJewish author Norman Finkelstein.
And so the seeds of conspiracy are sown. The creation of the State of Israel was in large part due to the aftermath of the Holocaust, and since 1948 the conspiracy has grown larger. Ironically, the Zionist project while successful in creating a nation-state for the Jews can equally be seen as having lost some ground since most Jews who fled Europe during and after the Nazi regime went to the U.S. More immigration of Jews took place to the U.S. and other parts of the world than to Israel. The mass migrations – or aliyahs – of modern Israeli history attest to small numbers of refuge-seeking Jewish immigrants. The majority is attracted by the economic benefits of direct payments, tax cuts, cheap housing (in the settlements) or promises of economic gain that Eastern Europe and Russia cannot compete with. In the meantime, Jewish presence in the U.S. grew, and with it its influence. There is no denying that the Jews are successful in the U.S., filling the statistical majorities of professions such as lawyers, doctors and professionals. And their influence in politics is no less impressive. Fund raising by pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli groups in the U.S. has been a major success. Israel today was built from the ground up by investments and contributions from individual Jews living abroad and by organizations such as the National Jewish Fund to name but one. In more recent times, not only did the pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish lobbies grow in importance, size and financial might, but increasingly a Jewish presence in the President’s cabinets strengthened. President Clinton’s cabinet for example was heavily comprised of Jews, all of whom were strongly pro-Israel. And throughout the peace negotiations during Clinton’s presidency, more Israeli settlements were built and more Palestinian land was expropriated than ever before.
So the Palestinians and Arabs see the Jews (and/or Israelis) and Americans in a symbiotic relationship. The interests of the Israeli government are funded by American collaboration, the interests of Israeli politics are put in place by American strategies. A further explanation may be needed for this. For example, I’ve been wondering what it is that Israel as a nation-state wants strategically for its future. I used to think – only a few weeks ago – that it wanted to expand its borders to the historically defined Holy Land, from the River Nile (in Egypt) to the River Euphrates (in Iraq) – the two blue lines on the Israeli flag. Thinking about it logically that seems improbable, although may still be a nascent dream. The Israelis have learned that they must compromise a little bit on their expansionist imaginings. But they still have the Palestinians to deal with. In 1948, about 70% of the Palestinian population was evicted from the land (the Palestinians will tell you they were either forced or terrified out; the Israelis will tell you that only a few thousand were forced out but the majority of the 750,000 fled voluntarily. What the “true” scenario is perhaps doesn’t matter so much anymore, since there is no denying that of those that fled the majority has not been able to return). In 1967 more Palestinians "fled". Over the past few years yet more have fled. Again the reasons differ according to who you ask; the Israelis claim that such fleeing is a democratic, free will on part of the people; the Palestinians will tell you that they had no choice but to leave having had their homes bulldozed, their identity cards taken away and their freedom and movement stripped from them, and looking for a brighter future for their kids elsewhere, in a place where the children will be free to go to school without fear of closures, shootings or psychological damage. These examples are what many refer to as “population transfer,” essentially sending the Palestinians out of their land into neighboring Jordan or farther away.
Today the Palestinians believe that the transfer has only just begun, and that Israel is strategically planning the complete evacuation of Palestinian land. The final solution? The land without the people, and this time literally accurate not just a phrase repeated by Israeli politicians (former Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1969, Yitzhak Rabin in the 90’s). To explain how this will happen, the American-Jewish conspiracy comes in handy again. The U.S. played a decisive role in the 70’s in bringing about an Egyptian-Israeli peace at Camp David. The U.S. equally plays an important role in pacifying Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, but more importantly Jordan. The Jordanian-Israeli Peace is one that is embodied by a very warm relationship; it’s very unlikely that these two countries will ever go to war, just as it is unlikely that Egypt and Israel will ever go to war again.
We jump ahead to the fateful day of September 11 2001. It is true that many Arabs believe the stories circulating that no Israelis died in the attack on the Twin Towers, despite the high number of Israelis who work there, or that all Jews received messages on their pagers telling them not to go to work that day. The Arabs are gullible, and will often speak that Mossad (the Israeli intelligence) knew of the attacks, if not outright carried them out. But never mind that. The U.S. after the disaster reacted against the Muslim world in the name of “security” – something the Israelis had long been since claiming in their "retaliations" against the Palestinians. Every time the Israeli military bombed a refugee camp, built checkpoints, arrested people or assassinated them, it was in the name of “national security.” Now the Americans were doing the same; and the Arabs weren’t blind or deaf when former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on CNN that he was glad the attacks happened because now the Americans would understand what the Israelis live through. So the U.S. attacked Afghanistan in search for that elusive Bin Laden. Now the U.S. is busy trying to wage a war on Iraq, and despite the anti-war sentiments and movements across the world, one will find little of that in Israel. In fact the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S. is more pro-war than any other lobby. What’s the relationship? The answer lies in long-term strategy. Sure the U.S. will gain increased economic might with control of the oil fields, which will generate enough wealth for the U.S. to remain the only economic superpower for another 150 years. But Israel stands to gain a lot too. No, not just benefiting from a wealthier donor (the U.S. does send about $3 billion in aid to Israel every year and another $5 billion in arms; and Israel has just submitted a proposal to increase its yearly funding to $4 billion a year). No, Israel’s border will not expand to the River Euphrates, but the River Jordan is at most 100 kilometers from Jerusalem…
Another detour before I get to the final point. Keep in mind what the other “terrorist” countries are: Syria, Libya, Iran and North Korea. The last doesn’t fit in to the picture. But Israel has been busy marketing the need to pacify the first three countries to the U.S. And let’s not forget that the Hizbollah movement in Lebanon poses a security threat to Israel. I wish I could draw out a map: Israel’s neighbors are: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Jordan’s neighbors to the North and East are Syria and Iraq, and further East of Iraq is Iran. Egypt’s neighbor to the West is Libya. Lebanon’s Northern neighbor is Turkey – a country already in the hands of the U.S. Think of it as a periphery, the outer borders that pose a threat to Israeli security are Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and to some extent Iran (only because revolutionary sentiment over there is extremely strong and potential for true democracy lies there as opposed to the rest of the Middle East subjugated to dictatorships of different kinds). The closest neighbors, Jordan and Egypt do not pose a threat to Israel, have warm relations with the U.S. and have already absorbed a lot of Palestinians. Lebanon will be taken care of in round-about ways.
This plan may sound far-fetched, reflecting a serious myopia on the part of the Arabs. But many Israeli political analysts’ thoughts fit into this picture as well. Similarly to the claims made by America’s “hawks,” many in Israel believe that the toppling of Saddam’s regime will lead the way to democratizing the Middle East, essentially a domino-effect. It’s a four-stage master plan: first get rid of Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction (assuming they exist); second, set up a new regime to “stabilize” Iraq; third, democratize Iraq (of course instituting a regime change from the outside is not seen as contradictory to instituting democracy); and fourth, use the successful Iraqi model to democratize the Middle East as a whole. The goal is to turn the region into a conglomeration of Western-oriented societies; much like Germany and Japan’s changes after World War II. Toppling Saddam is seen as eventually weakening ties between Syria and Iran, their presence in Lebanon and their support for Hizbollah. With American pressure on Syria, Hizbollah will have no choice but to disarm (its Katyusha rockets ready to fire 45 miles from the Israeli border). With America’s democracy agenda, it will force the Syrians out of Lebanon, paving the way for a Lebanese-Israeli peace. So the Israelis secure their immediate borders.
That’s the key. That Jordan and Egypt are peaceful neighbors with Israel, that they have both in not so distant past controlled the Palestinian population (in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively), and Lebanon will soon follow ground (and may well have to accept more Palestinian refugees). Israel’s final solution can only happen if the outer peripheries of threats are pacified. Population transfer to Jordan and Egypt (and perhaps to a lesser extent Lebanon) will take place and their neighbors will have no means to retaliate, thanks to the U.S.’s “crusade” in the name of national – or global – security. So the future holds that the Palestinians will once and for all be evicted from their land and sent to other Arab countries (and what does it matter, they’re all Arab so therefore must share the same cultural and religious values); Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Libya will not be able to disagree, for they too will become little colonies of the U.S., and the world will be safe again; well at least the Americans and Israelis will be safe. If anyone dares to disagree, slap the label of anti-Semitic or anti-American on him. We live in a world of guilt, fear and political correctness. That’s the conspiracy theory that the Arabs and Palestinians see. And much of Israeli and American political analysis seems to agree, only no one dares mention the last stage of the democratization of the Middle East: the population transfer of Palestinians.
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