Professor Paul Eidelberg
May 17, 2009
Trite as it may seem, Israel is approaching the moment of truth. I am alluding to the forthcoming meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.
Obama vigorously supports a Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland, Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu does not oppose a Palestinian state, but he has reservations about the conditions required for its establishment, and the extent of its powers.
Apparently, the state Netanyahu has in mind (1) would not have an army; (2) would not enter into treaties with any country it likes; and (3) would not have complete control of its air and water.
To promote an acceptable Palestinian state, its Arab citizens (1) must have a decent economy (an incentive not to make war); (2) they must enforce the rule of law; and (3) they must recognize Israel’s right exist as a sovereign Jewish state.
This, in short, is called the “bottom-up” or “people’s” approach to peace-making. However, no one in the Netanyahu government speaks of how much time will be required for this approach to succeed. Middle East expert Daniel Pipes estimates one or two generations, and then only if and after the Palestinians are vanquished.
Be this as it may, surely a bottom-up approach must include teaching Arab children not to hate Jews and Israel and not to exalt suicide bombers. Netanyahu is surely aware of this problem. But can Arab hatred of Jews be overcome without drastic changes in the Quran? No one in Israel’s government is going to breathe a word about this—not to Barack Hussein Obama.
Netanyahu’s approach to peace-making is secular: he obscures the religious dimension of the Palestinian problem. An Arab spokesman is quoted as saying: "The propagandists of secularism, who leave out of account the religious factor in the Palestine problem, ignore the fact that this is the only bone of contention in the world which has persisted for thirty centuries..."
Netanyahu ignores the historical fact that religion trumps economics in the Arab mind. Here is some evidence. During the Palestine Mandate period, the progress of the Jews immensely improved the economic standards, health, and longevity of the Arabs. Their per capita income greatly exceeded that of any Arab country. The rapid growth of the Arab wages was particularly striking in those areas of Jewish settlement and development. This was acknowledged by the British Peel Commission report of 1937.
Yet the report noted that, "Although the Arabs have benefitted from the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary, improvement in the economic situation in Palestine has meant the deterioration of the political situation." Religion trumped economics.
This is why those who think poverty is a cause of Islamic terrorism are utterly mistaken. Dr. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, who used empirical research involving 500 terrorists, debunked the soothing notions that terrorism “is caused by poverty, lack of education, sexual deprivation … or lack of economic opportunity.” Only shallow commentators, who do not take religion seriously, ignore the root cause of Islamic terrorism, namely, the imperatives of Islam.
It’s obvious to any thoughtful and honest observer that genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians is impossible so long as these Arabs adhere to a religion that mandates murderous hatred of infidels, Jews in particular. Moreover, Islam rejects what Israel exalts, the basic principles of democracy. Let me enumerate ten contradictions between democracy and Islam.
1. Whereas, freedom, including freedom of speech, is one of the two cardinal principles of democracy, Islamic culture is strictly authoritarian, which is why its media are state-controlled.
2. Unlike democracy, whose other cardinal principle is equality, Islamic culture is strictly hierarchical. Top-down leadership is fundamental in Islamic theology. Authority runs down from Allah to Muhammad and from Muhammad to the imam, the ruler of the regime.
3. Democracy is based on the primacy of consent or persuasion. This adorns democratic societies with a certain easy-goingness and civility. Past grievances are readily swept aside, and political opponents can be friends despite their differences. Differences are resolved by mutual concessions, and agreements are usually lasting. In contrast, Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of coercion. Agreements between rival factions do not really terminate animosities, which is why such agreements are so short-lived. Revenge is a dominant motif of Arab culture.
4. Because democracy is based on the primacy of consent, the pursuit of peace is the norm of democratic states. In contrast, because Islamic culture is based on the primacy of coercion, the foreign policy norm of Arab-Islamic states is intimidation and conquest. Jihad is a basic Islamic principle, which is why violence will be found throughout the Islamic world.
5. Whereas democracy is based on the primacy of the individual, Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of the group—be it the village or the extended family. The individual Muslim has no identity outside the group; it is to the group that he owes all his loyalty. This is one reason why internecine conflict has been endemic among Arabs throughout history.
6. Contemporary democracy is regarded as a process by which individuals pursue their private interests and have diverse values or “lifestyles.” This is not the case in Islamic culture, which binds everyone to the set of substantive values prescribed in the Quran and Islamic law.
7. Whereas contemporary democracy is inclined toward moral relativism, Islam is based on moral absolutism.
8. Whereas democratic societies are preoccupied with the present, Islamic mentality is dominated by the glories of the past projected into the future. Islam has always aspired to global dominance.
9. The openness or publicity found in democracy stands in striking contrast to the hiddenness, secrecy, and dissimulation characteristic of Islam. As one intellectually liberated Arab sociologist writes: “Lying is a widespread habit among the Arabs, and they have a low idea of truth.”
10. Whereas contemporary democracy is rooted in secularism, Arab-Islamic culture is rooted in a harsh religion. Even Arab leaders who are not devout Muslims identify with the basic goals of Islam. The radical separation of religion and politics found in democracy is foreign to Islamic regimes.
So, those who think the Palestinians can be democratized are adolescents in Wonderland. So again I ask, “How long will it take before the Palestinians become a reliable peace partner?” It may be asked: “Hasn’t Iraq been democratized?” Really?
Not according to Mark Helprin, whose opinion is based not on partisan impulses, but on more than 40 years of involvement in the Middle East, training with the leading scholars, and serving in deserts, mountains, and villages in the region, speaking the languages and walking around at night with a machine gun in pursuit of the people relevant to this issue.
He writes: “If Iraq is a democracy because it has held election, then so was the Soviet Union. Under pressure from the United States, Iraq is unenthusiastically pretending to be a democracy while it remains a forced confederation of three homogeneous and mutually hostile religious and/or ethnic communities that will not and cannot be brought together contentedly.”
Netanyahu’s talk about peace with the Arab Palestinians, most of whom exalted suicide bombers, and many of whom used women and children as human bombs is, hogwash, an insult to the intelligence.
I have set forth the unvarnished truth about Israel’s enemies. What I have said about the Arabs was published the month after 9/11 by the Ariel Center for Policy Research, to which Netanyahu has spoken more than once.
Israel is indeed approaching the moment of truth—when it must choose between life and death. It is not difficult to articulate the truth, as I indicated to Netanyahu some years ago at a meeting with people from the Ariel Center. What Israel needs is a champion of truth. But now I must issue a warning.
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Obama’s commitment of a Palestinian state may be part of a strategy to eliminate Israel from the Middle East. If so, then Netanyahu will accomplish nothing in Washington. In that case, he had better return home and begin thinking of a strategy to thwart Obama by any and all means—and I mean any and all means. Let me suggest that he organize an inter-ministerial committee whose primary purpose is to devise ways and means of curtailing Israel’s exaggerated strategic dependence on the United States. The committee might want to consider the following:
Establish a strategic alliance with India, aspects of which are already
(2) Develop with India a strategic strike force as well as commando units.
(3) Develop exchange programs with India for highly qualified scientists and engineers.
(4) Expand industrial and commercial relations between the two countries.
(5) Cease providing intelligence information to the United States.
(6) Reconfigure joint projects with American corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed.
(7) Establish an Israel-American think tank in the United States with links to the American Enterprise Institute, the American Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, etc.
(8) Replace AIPAC with an American organization run by religious and secular Zionists.
(9) Institute a presidential system of government and replace party slates with constituency elections.
(10) Require all public schools to include in their curriculums basic sources of Judaism.
(11) Require all public schools to teach students about Islam.
(12) Require all public schools to teach students about the Jewish people’s contribution to Western civilization as well as Israel’s current contributions to the welfare of mankind.
© 2009 Paul Eidelberg - All Rights Reserved
Internationally known political scientist, author and lecturer, Eidelberg is the founder and president of The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem.
Prof. Eidelberg served in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He designed the electronic equipment for the first brain scanner at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.
Before immigrating to Israel in 1976, Prof. Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on America’s founding fathers: The Philosophy of the American Constitution, On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence, and a Discourse on Statesmanship.
In 1976 he joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism. Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy analyses the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, which has been translated into Hebrew and Russian, reveals the flaws inherent in Israel’s system of governance and how they may be remedied. A Jewish Philosophy of History investigates the world-historical events leading to the rebirth of Israel in 1948.
His latest publication, The Myth of Israeli Democracy, provides an abbreviated version of a Constitution which shows how to make Israel a genuine democracy based on a Jewish conception of freedom and equality.
is on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for Policy Research,
which has published many of his policy papers. In addition to writing
more than 1,000 articles for newspapers and scholarly journals in the
U.S. and Israel, he has a weekly program on Israel
Prof. Eidelberg has been lecturing throughout Israel and the United States. He conducts seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.
Web site: Foundation for Constitutional Democracy