By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
There will come a time, and that time will arrive sooner than many believe, when Near East Muslims will understand that Jews are not, that Israel is not, what holds them back. This is a reason I am for a two-state solution: with a state to manage, Palestinians will be responsible to more than rhetoric and bullets and bombs. They and the nations who support them will have to come to terms with some stubborn and uncomfortable problems, none of which can be laid at Israel’s door.
- Religious ideology (any religious ideology) that rejects modernity, that rejects the bases of the French Revolution and The Enlightenment, cannot hope to raise educational standards enough to be competitive and, in turn, raise living standards for millions. Israel has nothing to do with the grip of the Arab world’s pre-modern religious ideology that retards development. The irony is that it was not always so in the Near East Muslim world: it was a leader in math, science, architecture and other forms of design until about four hundred years ago when it began to become increasingly reactionary, if not xenophobic, finding it more and more difficult to live with and near non-Muslims.
- Misogyny, even when cultures try to legitimate it with religion- any religion – stymies the progress any region can make. The reasons that keeping women subservient and dependent work against progress are obvious and I needn’t list them. Israel has nothing to do with the lack of women’s educational and business opportunities in many Near East nations.
- There’s a wholly non-religious aspect to what has kept Palestinians and millions of other Near East Muslims poor. Wealthy Arabs cannot stand poor ones. No nation, ours, Israel, is without ugly, dismissive, class-based prejudice. Yet what has to be confronted by poorer Near East Muslims themselves is the back-of-the-hand that rich, authoritarian Arab states have continually given to their poor co-religionists. In part, of course, it’s been simpler for wealthy Arabs to refrain from helping to develop decent housing, robust schools on a large scale, and widening the circle of who benefits from oil. It’s been simpler and more useful for the wealthy autocracies to keep them poor so as to use them as a thorn in Israel’s side, as ready canon fodder. It’s been easier to point to Israel as the reason they live as they do. We all know that with a concerted effort, the oil states could, if they genuinely cared about Palestinians, raise living and educational standards and accomplishment in a generation. That they fail to do it has everything to do with class prejudice, wanting Jews gone, and nothing to do with Israel. Ask yourselves: if Israel were gone in the morning, would that alone give poor Muslims a new dawn?
The overall solution is about borders, respecting Islam (and Judaism), and formal political recognition by Palestinians of Israel, yes. But it’s more. It’s about core cultural regional issues that Israel cannot influence and that Muslims can.