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The Arab World Needs Israel – for Now

May 11, 2009
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When the fighting broke out between Hamas and Israel late in December 2008, the Arab League gathered in Cairo to assess the situation and consider the consequences. Many were prepared for a robust condemnation of Israel, the “Zionist” state. But no! In a clear rebuke to Hamas for its violent split with Fatah, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud al-Faisal said, “We are telling our Palestinian brothers that your Arab nation cannot extend a real helping hand if you don’t extend your own hands to each other with love.”

Egyptian Prsident Hosni Mubarak

The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab states who were inclined to support Hamas “to mind their own business.” Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), chairman of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah’s leader, said, “We called the leaders of Hamas and told them, both directly and indirectly, through Arab parties and non-Arab parties. We talked to them by phone. We told them, ‘Please, do not end the tahdiah [the calm].’” Nimr Hammad, advisor to Abbas, said, “The one responsible for the massacre is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly.”

Stratfor News founder George Friedman wrote: “One of the remarkable things about Israel’s Operation Cast-Lead in Gaza was that no Arab state moved quickly to take aggressive steps on the Gazans’ behalf. This was not accidental: The Arab states do not view the creation of a Palestinian state as being in their interests. They do view the destruction of Israel as being in their interests, but since they do not expect that to come about anytime soon, it is in their interest to reach some sort of understanding with the Israelis while keeping the Palestinians contained.”

International analyst Barry Rubin wrote: “Every Arab state is battling Hamas’s friends inside its own borders. In Lebanon, Hizballah Shia Islamists bully Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Druze rivals. Bloody civil wars between Islamists and nationalists erupted in Algeria and Egypt; terrorist campaigns swept Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”

Turkey’s Aspirations

The factions in the Middle East are passionate and aggressive, often violent, so it was no surprise that most Arab voices condemned Hamas during Operation Cast-Lead. However, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was something of a lone wolf. He openly criticized Israel for the Gaza operation, but he had deeper goals. Turkey may have taken this opportunity to position itself as a future power in the Islamic world. Turkey is a wealthy nation and has the Islamic credentials to edge ahead of Iran in the contest for Arab leadership. Iran is ethnically Persian and a religiously Shiite state, while the Arab world is predominantly Sunni. Iran also is weak economically.

Turkey will be a nation to watch in the near future. If the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party reverts to its Islamic roots, Ankara will seek to expand its influence and oppose secularism among Arabs. Turkey may benefit from current Arab concerns about Iran but Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have had to be very wary of Islamic fundamentalism for a long time. You can be certain the authorities in those states will be watching Turkey very carefully.

Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

The Mubarak regime in Egypt has withstood almost a century of violent opposition from the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-banna, a schoolteacher, to promote traditional Islamic Sharia (strict fundamentalist) law. Initially, MB focused on educational and charitable activities but soon grew to become an influential political force. The prime minister of Egypt was assassinated by a member of the Brotherhood in 1948. A long line of serious and often bloody exchanges continued.

A strong indication of the Egyptian opposition to activities of “The Brothers” appeared on the MB Web site, which reported the arrest of 45 members last December. The item said the men were stopped by authorities from attending a pro-Gaza meeting. “While Hamas is designated by western countries as a ‘terrorist’ organization, Arab and Muslim peoples and national powers sympathize with its rhetoric and endorse it as a national liberation movement that confronts the Zionist expansionist and racist project…The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has ideological and historical ties with Hamas, supports legitimate resistance against Israeli occupation, but it has repeatedly denied any organizational links with the Palestinian resistance movement.”

In a report January 2008, the same Web site reported: “Egyptian security forces arrested 150 MB members in Damanhour Monday during a demonstration organized by the MB.” Again, those arrested were protesting against Israel. They reported that hundreds of their members were arrested “from different places in Egypt.”

The Mubarak administration has watched the MB increase in power and influence over 80 years, and Hamas appears to be seeking that same journey. “The links between Hamas and ‘the Brothers’ are strong, deep, and long-standing. The Gaza Strip, which is the powerbase of Hamas, abuts Egypt, and in the eyes of many, the Palestinian movement is little more than the ‘North Sinai Branch’ for the Muslim Brotherhood. So just as Cairo needs to keep ‘the Brothers’ in check, it also has an interest in seeing Hamas weakened,” wrote Jerusalem-based journalist Tim Butcher.

Israeli commentator Amotz Asa-El said, “Gullible westerners can delude themselves that a Sharia state in Gaza will care only about itself and Israel. Mubarak evidently knows better than that.” Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah unleashed a tirade of abuse at the Mubarak regime and called on Egyptians to take to the streets in protest of the government’s inactivity.

Speaking at a press conference in Turkey, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded with rhetoric of his own: “They [Hizbullah] have practically declared war on Egypt via satellite stations. The Egyptian people reject and oppose this declaration. They [Hizbullah] want for there to be chaos in Egypt as there is in their country…I tell this man: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you. Your interest in chaos is not in the best interest of the area.”

The Shiite Iranian Factor

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The establishment of a Palestinian state is not a popular preference for most of the Arab world. On the surface, most outside the Middle East see Hamas and Israel as antagonistic opposites. That is true, but it is the absence of Arab support that keeps Hamas weakened, and Abbas lacks the Arafat clout to rally his troops. So, what keeps the Arab world on hold?

It is the declared ambition of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who continues to make bold aggressive statements spoken to the Western powers, but the Arab world knows his desire to strengthen the Iranian position is in their world. Brig. Gen (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira and analyst Daniel Diker observed:

“Today, Ahmadinejad’s confident reassertion of Shiite power has become a grave concern in states where Sunnis and Shiites live together, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], Qatar, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. The Sunnis are accustomed to regarding the Shiites, as inferior, as second-class Muslims, and as a threat to the long-standing dominance of Sunni Arabs in the Middle East. Never before has the Sunni mainstream establishment perceived the Shiites to be so daunting a threat.”

They also mentioned the “end-of-days” scenario, looking for the return of the mahdi (Shiite messiah), which motivates Ahmadinejad. With that religious fervor in mind, it is no wonder any activity by Hamas or Hizbullah is noted by the Arab world as Tehran-motivated. Just as the Egyptian Foreign Minister verbally attacked Nasrallah, he would also speak to Hamas. There is no support for any link with Iran or Iranian ambitions within the Egyptian leaders. The Sunni Saudis are not eager to make way for the Shia Iranians, and that fierce divide will delay any dreams of Hamas and their dependence on Iran.

Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani

The inner Muslim war, via the Internet, is an eye-opener into the passions of their differences. I studied articles published by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt (ACPSS). Shia and Sunni hackers are ferociously attacking each other. They even attacked the site of Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Ayatollah Khomeini. The Shia responded by hacking into 900 Sunni Web sites, including the mufti of Saudi Arabia and prominent Saudi scholars. An ACPSS article regretted the “political conflicts disguised in religious clothing.” It reported, “The climate is now unfavorable to going through a healthy dialogue between the Muslim world and the outside world while contradictions in Islamic thought are now exposed.”

Khaled Mashaal

In a publication for the Jewish Center for Public Affairs, Israeli Lt-Gen (ret.) Moshe Yaalon wrote:

“In June 2007, Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza transformed the Strip into the region’s first ‘Islamic Arab Emirate.’ This was an important achievement for Iran. It is also the region’s first example of the Muslim Brotherhood’s governmental control of a contiguous territory and its population…Iran’s direct backing of Hamas, via Khaled Mashaal and the Damascus-based Hamas leadership, has essentially transformed Gaza into a base from which to export Iranian terror against Israel and expand Teheran’s political control in the region…Iran now has an additional gateway, aside from Syria and Lebanon, to the Arab world—and one that poses a threat to Israel’s neighbors, Egypt, and Jordan…The establishment of ‘Hamastan’ in Gaza also radiates victory to the jihadists of many stripes, including those fighting the US-led coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq…More importantly, Hamastan has also signaled the weakness of the West’s political will in confronting and defeating Iran and its proxies militarily.”

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, “The dominant conflict is no longer the Israeli–Palestinian struggle, but the threat of confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia for sub-regional supremacy and between Iran and the US for regional hegemony.”

The God Factor

I also see a strong God factor in all of this activity. Make no mistake; most of the Arab nations still want to be rid of Israel. The presence of the Jewish state in what they see as their Arab world is disconcerting to them, to say the least. But right now, they are preoccupied with other forces, bigger threats. That diversion of focus and their internal frictions works for the survival and well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. It is the hand of the Lord.

As for Christians, we must not relax. We must continue the stand. We must pray and “give Him no rest” (Isa. 62:7). BFP CEO Rev. Rebecca Brimmer has written:

“Today, the Jewish people continue to fight for their survival. They are surrounded by enemies, both within their borders and without. War follows war as Israel strives simply to survive. With every ounce of their being, Israelis long for peace, but it remains illusive. During these times, we are called upon to pray for Israel. We pray for God’s protective hand to be on the nation; we pray that the people will put their trust in God; we pray for God’s deliverance, and we pray for true believers to stand with Israel.”

By Ron Ross, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio Host


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