There are two overly simplistic reasons given for all middle east problems: US energy dependence and the existence of Israel.
Most of us in the US accuse our country of excessive reliance on middle east oil. We believe, correctly or not, that virtually all middle east foreign policy is focused on keeping our source of oil flowing. We prop up dictators, as in Egypt, and we engage in wars, as in Iraq, for oil. This is a jaded view of our foreign policy. This belief denies any altruistic motive we might have, such removing perceived threats to the national security of our allies (as in Iraq), or assisting nations that are attacked by a neighboring bully (as in the first Gulf war defending Kuwait.) If we were not dependent on middle east oil, these issues would still exist.
Anti-Israel sentiment has been increasing. A startling number of people, even some conservative friends, sincerely believe that if Israel, as a Jewish state, did not exist, all mid-east and Islamic rage would disappear. All mid-east conflict would cease. They believe that the creation of a tiny Jewish state in the midst of a Palestinian, Arabic, or Muslim region was a big mistake – that the world initiated perpetual trouble by that action.
Let’s take a closer look at this belief.
First, who occupied the lands of present day Israel, and when? Sure, for a lengthy period prior to 1947 there was no state of Israel. But there was a nation of Israel at that location over the course of many centuries before 79 AD, in fact for two millennia. Palestinians have not always occupied these lands and are not automatically entitled to them. Well, you might argue, that would mean that native Americans have a right to a nation within the United States. There is little equivalence in this analogy on at least two counts. The United States created free and protected zones for the native Americans called reservations, and, most importantly, the people of the United States do not maintain an intolerant ideology that calls for the cleansing of the native American population. In fact, we have gone to great lengths to facilitate assimilation of native Americans into our neo-European culture. Compare this with the predisposition of middle east Muslims and other anti-Semites in the world.
Secondly let’s look at the reason for the creation of Israel and the proportion of Palestinian/Arab/Muslim land involved. The modern state of Israel was created after the conclusion of WWII. Why? After WWII there was still a huge amount of world guilt about the holocaust – the slaughter of six million Jews and persecution of countless others. Anti-Semitism still smoldered in the Muslim-dominated middle east. The world lobbied for the creation of a Jewish homeland where Jews could maintain a secure homeland. In addition, the area that would become the new state of Israel was already occupied by a significant Jewish population. And who could legitimately complain today when the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim populations surrounding Israel already control a dozen nations occupying an area more than fifty times the size of tiny Israel (counting Gaza, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, the Arab Emirates, and Jordon).
Now let’s consider whether Israel is the problem or Islam is the problem. The hatred and slaughter of Jews during WWII was not provoked by a State of Israel. There was no State of Israel at that time. So, it does not take the existence of a State of Israel to provoke hatred toward the Jewish people. In fact, prior to and during WWII there was an alliance between Islamic leaders in the middle east and leaders of the Third Reich to exterminate the Jews in Germany. Anti-Semitism did not originate with the Germans. Anti-Semitism has been a cornerstone doctrine of Islam since its founding in 610 AD. Islam and The Third Reich were a perfect alliance with their shared objective of exterminating the Jews, even if for different reasons.
Which nation or nations in the middle east have the most in common with western culture and moral ideals? There is one: Israel. All the others are dominated by the Islamic ideology which in most instances has a diametrically opposite set of moral and legal principles. Islam is not big on tolerance, but it is big on submission. Death is valued more than life. Islam is not promoted via verbal evangelism, but by the sword.
Asserting that Israel is “the problem” is like claiming that the fireman in the midst of a fire is the problem, or a light in darkness is the problem – unless you have given up on the goodness of western Judeo-Christian ideals. It does humanity no service to call “good” in the midst of “evil” “the problem” unless you believe that all cultures, all morality or the lack thereof, are of equal value and equally good.
I am saddened when I encounter folks who believe that the problem is the good in the midst of evil. Even if we were all to cower in a small corner of the world, the ideology of Islam would continue to be motivated to convert or kill the infidel. Where do we want to draw the line?