by Joel Bainerman
For more than 75 years, western diplomats have been coming up with peace initiatives to solve the Arab Israeli conflict. Yet they always fail. Why? What keeps the Middle East conflict going?
If we are going to devise a solution, we must first understand why the conflict continues to exist. To do this, we have to view the situation from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. This is completely opposite to the way most Jews and Arabs have been conditioned to look at the situation. Jews focus on the damage Arab/Palestinians cause, and believe that damage to be the cause of the conflict, when it is really only a result of it. They view the conflict and its origins from the bottom up. Arabs/Palestinians concentrate on the damage Israel causes and believe this to be the cause of the conflict, when it is really only a result of it. They too relate to the situation from the bottom up
To understand what really causes the Middle East conflict to continue, one must look at the issue from the top down. To get a more accurate picture of what lies behind the continued existence of the conflict, lets acknowledge these five factors which serve to perpetuate rather than solve the problem:
1) The vested interests of the Foreign Elite (FE): There is a third entity in the conflict in addition to the Israelis and the Arabs: the foreigners (in order of importance, the US, Britain, Russia, China, France, Germany). Without them, there would be no Middle East conflict because it is the foreign influence that keeps the situation from being resolved. Unfortunately, both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews believe they are each others worst enemy without considering the third element the foreigners that is the enemy of both. The thing that Arabs and Jews have most in common is this common enemy, yet the leaders on both sides (not being legitimate or independent) tell their people that the other side is their number one enemy. Hence the conflict continues
2) Control of Middle East oil: The foreigners interfere in the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to exploit and control the vast petroleum resources in the region. If there were no oil, there would be no petrodollars to recycle; the foreigners would have no reason to dominate the region
3) Weapons sales: If there was a worldwide ban on arms sales to the Middle East, there would be no more radical Arab dictators with modern arms. If the foreigners stopped selling advanced weaponry to nations of the Middle East, the conflict would end
4) The mainstream media: If the mainstream media in the West stopped reporting on the “search for peace in the Middle East”, peace would prevail. By keeping the regions unstable image alive, the media, as the sole source of information by which people can formulate their perceptions, provide an excuse for the foreigners to interfere, and at the same time serve to convince everyone that these western nations want peace, despite the fact that they have been seeking it for over 50 years, in vain. The media never question the intentions or agendas of the FE. The media thus provide the glue which keeps the conflict going. Without the mainstream media constantly reporting on the conflict, there would be peace, as everyone would forget that the Middle East is unstable and thus in need of stabilizing via new peace initiatives
5) Corrupt national leadership of Middle East nations: It isn’t peace between Arabs and Jews that interests the FE, but rather the continuation of the conflict. The way they do that is by corrupting/controlling the national leaders of both sides. The reason why legitimate, popular leaders are not at the helms of countries in the Middle East is because the FE will topple any leader who doesn’t cater to their desires before the needs of their own people. If Middle East leaders are selected and deemed popular by their own people, the FE will demonize them as radicals/extremists, terrorist leaders or enemies of peace, and thus de-legitimize them in the world arena. How can genuine co-existence take hold if the leaders of both sides are more interested in pleasing their foreign masters than their own peoples?
Unless these five basic factors are understood, the true causes that extend the conflict will never be understood. Instead, each side will go on blaming the other seeking to take the high moral ground and convince their own people and those from abroad that they are right, and the other side is wrong. This will lead only to more death and destruction. The technique is called divide and rule, and it has been a favorite of the FE for decades.
It needs to be understood that the reason why the Middle East conflict continues to exist is because foreign elements desire the conflict not to be solved. This conflict is not nearly as complicated to solve as they present it in the mainstream media and the think thanks/analyses world of “Middle East affairs” that exist worldwide. More than 50 years down the road we are still no nearer to a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict than we were in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, or the 1990s.
So why does this regional conflict continue to exist? Who benefits the most by having the conflict remain unsolved? Let’s deconstruct the Middle East conflict and look at all its parameters:
1) The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is how the pro-Arab camp refers to it. It claims Israel is oppressing the Palestinians and that, as a result, the entire Middle East remains unstable, and will continue to be unstable unless the Palestinians have their own state.
2) The Arab-Israeli conflict is how Israel defines the situation. Until the Oslo process began, Israel claimed the conflict existed because: “The Arabs don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Now Israel says the conflict continues because the Palestinian leaders “support terrorism.”
These conclusions are fed to the Arab and Israelis peoples so as to enable them each to take the high moral ground and focus their hatred on each other. And this in turn directs their attention away from their number one enemy: the foreigners.
By having the Arabs believe Israel is at fault for “oppressing” the Palestinians, while having Israelis believe the conflict exists because the Arabs fail to recognize the Jewish state or seek its destruction (i.e. support terrorism) the foreign interests succeed in hiding the bigger picture: what the foreigners are doing when it comes to controlling the Arab nations’ only natural resource, and how they are selling massive amount of weapons to the oil-producing regimes.
To keep up this fraud, the foreign elements must control the national leaders of both peoples, and ensure that the mainstream media don’t stray too far from the cover stories: “Israel is acting immorally against the Palestinians” or “Palestinian leaders support terrorism.
Creating either a viable Palestinian state or peace between Arabs and Jews is not the goal of the foreigners. Whether stated publicly or not, their intention is to extend the Middle East conflict, not resolve it. Unless this basic truth is understood by Arabs and Jews, the foreign elements, via the mainstream media, will continue to manipulate the perception of both sides as to why the conflict continues.
The only way the foreigners can sustain the conflict is to have each side blame the other for its continuation. In this way neither side can discover the real causes, which are the oil and arms deals made between the rich oil states and the foreign powers. One aspect of the conflict serves as convenient camouflage for the other.
To keep this fraud in place, the “moral argument” is employed to have the world focus on the “morality” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In this way, everyone is forced to take a side. The pro-Arab side claims Israel is morally flawed, while the pro-Israel side claims the Arabs are morally flawed.
Thus any public discussion is structured in such a way that the peoples in the region and those abroad are forced to believe one side’s claim or the other. The pro-Israel version is that the Arabs want to destroy Israel and are employing terrorism to reach this goal. The pro-Arab side claims Israel’s actions against the Palestinians are immoral because they violate the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and their human rights and dignity. In short, the parameters of the debate consist of choosing sides. No other option is given. No other participant in the conflict is presented.
In spite of all the vested foreign interests at work in the region, namely oil and arms, the entire discussion of the conflict centers on one of these two positions: either you are pro-Israel or pro-Arab.
This moralizing is the way the foreigners control the debate so that the actual causes are never allowed to surface. Israel’s national leaders can moralize about how inhumane Arab suicide bombers are; Palestinian leaders can moralize about how horrible Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is. The US State Department can moralize about Israel’s human rights record. The Jews in America are morally aligned with Israel; the countries of the Third World identify with the Arabs. The Europeans are perceived to be anti-Israel. The Christian fundamentalists in the US support Israel for moral reasons. The Israeli Left takes the high moral ground when it publicly condemns its own government for its treatment of the Palestinians. The Israeli Right waves a finger at Yasser Arafat and proclaims: “Arafat is not doing enough to stop terrorism.” The Palestinians claim Sharon is not serious about peace.
“The Palestinians must learn they will never achieve anything through violence,” says one group. “The Palestinians deserve their own state,” declares another. Yet with all this “morality” flying around, nobody ever points a finger at the foreign countries or accuses them of acting immorally by selling arms to Middle East dictators and exploiting the natural resources of the region.
Instead, people around the globe are told what to believe regarding the reason for the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if their opinions and feelings are actually relevant to what is happening on the ground.
This long-distance exercise in morality is what the media focus on when nothing much is happening in the region, to point out how important “peace in the Middle East” is for everyone. Yet the only thing about such stories that can be believed is that the continuation of the conflict is important to the media.
Why the Middle East conflict never gets solved
Everyone in the world is morally bound up with the Arab Israeli conflict. Yet can it be possible that the entire conflict is based on the lack of morality of one side or the other? Can all that has happened in the region over the past half century be the result of one people not behaving nicely toward the other? What other regional conflicts are defined in this way? What other regional conflicts continue for more than a half a century, look like they are finally being solved, and then come roaring back in the way the Middle East conflict has?
Let’s think for a moment, and ask: Do regional wars and conflicts continue for seven decades because one side isn’t acting nicely toward the other? Is the conflict’s existence merely due to the actions of each or both sides – the 5 million Jews and the 4 million Arabs – who simply don’t like each other?
Can that really be the answer? That is certainly the way the mainstream press and the academic world present it. Oil and arms sales are never part of the explanation. How could so many newspapers and TV stations miss out on this side of the region’s affairs and focus solely on “new peace initiatives”?
One could argue, with justification, that the Israelis are not acting nicely toward the Palestinians – that they oppress them, restrict their movements, blow up their houses, etc. But that alone still doesn’t account for the continuation of the conflict. The Israelis are right when they argue that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and the Palestinian leadership hasn’t done enough to crack down on terrorism, but that too doesn’t explain why this 75-year-old conflict is still with us.
While it may even be true that the Arabs don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israel doesn’t stop existing because of that. The refusal of the Arabs to recognize Israel’s existence is not the reason why the Middle East still festers.
So why has this conflict been going on for nearly a century? Not only does the Middle East conflict continue to exist, it actually gets worse decade after decade. What other regional conflict actually looks like it is being solved, and then, 10 years later, returns to a state much worse than before?
What is special about the Middle East?
One unique thing about the Middle East conflict is that it is institutionalized. Think of the annual budgets for all the organizations whose sole purpose is to do “Middle East moralizing.” How much does it cost to fund all the activist organizations, the lobby groups, the news publications, the charities, the think tanks which exist solely to cast blame on either the Israeli or Arab side?
The Middle East conflict is a “cottage industry” in the US and Europe. It isn’t that way with other regional conflicts. Why is it that way with this one?
The pro-Israel camp has its lobbies, organizations, think tanks, magazines, support groups, Internet user groups, etc. which put out one simple message: “The Arabs are wrong; we’re right. We are more morally upstanding than them.” The pro-Arab camp has its lobbies, organizations, think tanks, magazines, support groups, and Internet user groups which put out one simple message: “The Israelis are wrong; we’re right. We are more morally upstanding than them.”
Both sides are basically saying the same thing to the other side: “you’re morally deficient, you’re not acting nicely, and it is because of you that we don’t have a solution.” What is incredible is that each side is right, and for the most part, each side’s argument is valid. Each side does do terrible things to the other, and both are morally deficient. Yet that still doesn’t account for the continued existence of the conflict.
Consider. The Arabs say: “The media in America is controlled by the Zionists and our side never gets a proper hearing,” while the pro-Israel camp says, “The media is anti-Israel.” Both claims have a basis of truth, yet they cancel each other out. The same is also true when the Palestinians claim that Israel is “denying the Palestinians a state.” The Israeli version is “The Arabs don’t recognize the Jewish state.” Two completely balanced arguments serve to keep the claims of both sides in perfect symmetry.
The media are responsible for promoting this “morality” aspect. If a politician in the US or Europe says: “I am disturbed by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians,” that becomes a media item, even though the statement had nothing to do with what happens on the ground.
Thousands of kilometers away, in Europe and the US, the Middle East conflict has a life of its own. The obsession that the mainstream media have about anything and everything to do with the Middle East proves that the mainstream media are responsible for sustaining it. The conflict would have faded away long ago, if it weren’t for this media attention.
This is important because, before we can look for a solution to the Middle East conflict, we need to determine why it exists in the first place.
Why should we support the establishment of a Palestinian state as a way to bring peace to the region if the lack of such a state is not the reason for the conflict? While it may be desirable to the Arabs to have a viable Palestinian state, and while the Palestinians certainly deserve their own national territory, we must ask ourselves: “Does the conflict exist just because the Palestinians don’t have their own state?”
Perhaps all those on the pro-Arab side should think about what would happen if a Palestinian state is created, yet doesn’t lead to prosperity and stability? The mere existence of a Palestinian state will not solve the regional conflict. Thus perhaps the absence of a Palestinian state is not the reason why peace does not exist today.
If the foreigners were truly interested in peace, and believed the creation of a Palestinian state would serve that goal, they would have forced Israel to accept it decades ago. They didn’t, and not because Israel controls the US political process, as some Arab intellectuals believe, but because they don’t want peace in the Middle East. That is why Arafat was allowed to funnel most of the $4 billion in foreign aid the Palestinian Authority received from 1993-2000 into 17 different security forces, rather than using the money for socio-economic development.
Compared to other regional conflicts caused by wrongs committed by one side on the other, the continued existence of the Middle East situation makes no sense. By now it should have either been resolved or have petered out.
Why does this problem never get solved?
The function of oil, weapons, and the US Dollar in the Middle East conflict
There is a view in the mainstream media that assumes the only concern the western nations have in the Middle East is for Arabs and Jews to kiss and make up. Yet after all their years of being involved in peace-making, how come there isn’t any peace?
Because peace is not good business for the “Foreign Elite”. What is important is maintaining the supremacy of the US dollar in world markets, recycling petrodollars to earn profits from the oil industry, and the sale of military products to the oil-rich Arab regimes. The unwritten agreement that the US has with the ruler of the oil states is that the oil will be priced in US dollars, and in return the US will protect them. While Fox, Time and CNN never discusses this issue, it is imperative for the strength of the US dollar that oil is priced only in US currency.
When oil is sold in US dollars, countries around the world need to maintain a certain level of US currency in the reserves of their central bank to finance their oil purchases. OPEC is a cartel created by the US specifically for this purpose. At the end of 2000, the Bank for International Settlements estimates world dollar reserves of $1.45 trillion, or 76% of the total world reserves of $1.09 trillion. If oil was priced in other currencies, most countries would have little need to stockpile dollars, and thus all the currency the US government has printed over the years would be of value only in the US. This would flood the country with dollars and cause huge inflation. In addition, current and future trade and current account deficits would no longer be financed by the foreigners who purchase American Treasury bills and other US-dominated debt instruments. In other words, the US would no longer be an economic superpower.
In a brilliant essay on this subject entitled “A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” economist William Clark wrote in January 2003: The Federal Reserves greatest nightmare is that OPEC will switch from a dollar standard to a euro standard. Iraq actually made this switch. The real reason the Bush administration wants a puppet government in Iraq or more importantly, the reason why the corporate-military-industrial network wants a puppet government in Iraq is so that it will revert back to a dollar standard.
Others have come to the same conclusion as this issue relates to other regions in the world. On June 18th, 2003, the publisher of the Venezuelan economic on-line journal, Veheadline.com, Roy Carson, wrote:
“A move by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias to replace the US$ with the Euro is seen as upsetting Washington more than when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein started using the Euro for oil transactions last November … precipitating the US-led action to invade Iraq. CIA and other intelligence organizations, including Britain’s MI5, now fear that the next step is that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is about to switch to Euros … the immediate effect would be a massive devaluation, perhaps sparking of domino-effect devaluations worldwide in US$-related foreign reserves and foreign debt calculations. With a massive budget deficit, the United States is running scared of latest intelligence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on the brink of converting to the Euros and the opinion held by many OPEC ministers is that the conversion is an inevitability … the only question left is WHEN? Arab sources claim that Euro conversion across the Middle and Far East is a rational step to counteract the United States’ capacity to “wage further illegal wars (a.k.a. State-sponsored terrorism)” around the world. A significant step in this direction is that Iran is contemplating switching to the Euro and, as a result, is the latest object of United States undiplomatic interference … an intelligence sources says “they are stimulating opposition forces, making covert threats … the next step is destabilization and quasi-liberation warfare under the pretext of promoting US-style democracy but essentially aimed at maintaining the US dollar as a global transaction currency.”
The goal of the “Foreign Elite” is to keep the oil flowing to western economies at a relatively low price so as not to harm the profits the elite oil companies earn from refining and marketing petroleum products, and ensuring that this oil remains priced in US dollars. To do that, foreigners have to prop up undemocratic and corrupt regimes (i.e., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain) so they will continue to serve foreign interests. In return, these countries keep the price of oil relatively low, keep the oil priced in US dollars, and never move upstream in the petroleum production process so as to compete with foreign oil companies.
The other unwritten law is that a certain amount of the oil revenues earned by the oil-rich states must be spent on the purchase of weapons. In 2002, Arab governments in the Middle East spent $52 billion on their military forces, of which $18 billion was for purchases from foreign countries. Arab countries devote 8%-11% of their national incomes to defense (23% of all government expenditures). (Yahya Sadowski, Guns or Butter, p.3). In the past decade, Saudi Arabia alone has spent over $100 billion on weapons.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, in the decade after the Gulf War (1991-2001) the US sold more than $43 billion worth of weapons, equipment and military construction projects to Saudi Arabia, and $16 billion more to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia alone imports about $15 billion worth of weapons each year. Instead of using this wealth for building an economic infrastructure throughout the region, it is wasted on arms. The rest of the oil revenues (after basic government expenditures are met) are deposited in western banks as the private property of the corrupted Arab leaders. This benefits both the leaders and the large western banking interests.
This process is called recycling petrodollars. As much of that wealth winds up in banks controlled by the foreign elite, this is another way that foreigners profit from the continued tension in the Middle East. Another activity of the foreigners is to sell massive amounts of military hardware and technology to Arab dictators like Saddam Hussein and then, years later, when the dictator doesn’t do what the foreigners want, the dictator becomes a threat to regional stability and an expensive (to the public at large, not to the arms industry) military invasion is suddenly required to contain him. When the smoke clears, nobody points a finger at the foreigners, accusing them of arming the dictator in the first place.
As no Arab country has a military industry, all weapons in the region are imported. If the western nations were truly interested in bringing peace to the Middle East, they would have placed a moratorium on arms sales to the region decades ago. Instead, they sell tens of billions worth of military hardware every year to the unstable regimes of the region. So the entities that are sending special envoys to “help the two sides make peace” are at the same time the main providers of weapons to the region. Somehow, this contradiction is never exposed.
This is where the Palestinian-Israeli conflict serves its purpose. Keeping the conflict alive means a never-ending moral crusade can be carried out by both Arabs and Jews, each blaming the other for keeping the conflict festering, each pointing fingers at the other side rather than at the foreigners. Is it merely a coincidence that there is vast oil reserves in the Middle East, while at the same time the region is home to a seven-decade-long conflict? If there were no oil, would there have been an Arab-Israeli conflict? As long as the Arabs and Jews are blaming each other, the foreigners’ role will go unnoticed–as will their profits.
©2005 Joel Bainerman has been writing about Israeli and Middle East economic and political subjects since he immigrated to Israel in 1983. His independent research covers a wide variety of topics on Israel and the Middle East conflict. He is the author of The Crimes of a President, which documents the covert side of American-Israel bi-lateral relations. An archive of more than 500 articles (including a 45-page report entitled “Why The Middle East Conflict Continues To Exist”) is available at his website: www.joelbainerman.com. He lectures on the Middle East and may be reached at: [email protected]