Friday, May 14, 2010

The Pipes of Peace?

Yesterday, Daniel Pipes wrote a most interesting article in National Review Online about Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. This article can also be found on Pipes' website.

Pipes, through the Middle East Forum, commissioned on poll on attitudes towards Israel as a Jewish state in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. According to the poll, approximately 20% of those surveyed accept Israel as a Jewish state. Pipes sees cause for optimism:

Although 20 percent constitutes a small minority, its consistency over time and place offers encouragement. That one-fifth of Muslims, Arabs, and even Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state suggests that, despite a near-century of indoctrination and intimidation, a base for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict does exist.

Would-be peacemakers must direct their attention to increasing the size of this moderate cohort. Getting from 20 percent to, say, 60 percent would fundamentally shift the politics of the Middle East, displacing Israel from its exaggerated role and releasing the peoples of this blighted region to address their real challenges. Not Zionism but such, oh, minor problems as autocracy, brutality, cruelty, conspiracism, religious intolerance, apocalypticism, political extremism, misogyny, slavery, economic backwardness, brain drain, capital flight, corruption, and drought.

I wish I shared Pipes' optimism. I don't dispute that 20% of the Arab world has no problem living alongside or in proximity to a Jewish state. However, this 20% doesn't exactly go around the streets of Amman, Beirut, Cairo and Riyadh wearing Hug a Jew Today t-shirts. I don't see how you get from 20% to 60% support if those 20% aren't willing to speak out much less wear their support on their sleeves.

Let us also remember that Israel has had a formal peace agreement with Egypt for over three decades and a formal peace agreement with Jordan for over fifteen years. When only 26% of Egyptians and 9% of Jordanians support the idea of having a Jewish state as a neighbor it tells me an overwhelming majority of their populaces would just as soon see Israel driven into the sea.

I don't fault Pipes for trying to find a sliver an optimism in a cloud of despair. But unless individual Arabs (be they Muslim or Christian) take it upon themselves to speak out in favor of Israel I think that Arab acceptance of the Jewish State is little more than a pipe dream.

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