James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Arabs; What will Israel do?

The really big questions about what's going to happen in the Arab world haven't been asked yet, at least not by any of the American corporate media.

Once it became clear that the Tunisian rebels were going to win, it was inevitable that Egypt would follow. (I did say that to a few people before the demonstrations started in Egypt.)

Saturday afternoon, there was a crawl at the bottom of the screen on MSNBC saying that demonstrations had begun in Jordan. No further information was immediately provided.

A voice broadcast from Saudi Arabia was cut off before MSNBC's correspondent could begin answering questions about what is going on there. Probably just technical difficulties, as an MSNBC anchor said. By Sunday, we learned that the Saudi rulers have voiced support for Egyptian "president" Hosni Mubarak, though it is not clear yet if that means material support will be provided. Probably not.

It is possible that both Jordan and Saudi Arabia soon will be in the midst of revolution, though it is hardly certain. Like Tunisia and Egypt, they are run by authoritarian, extremely repressive governments that have long been propped up by the United States through massive dollar and arms infusions.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan are in different positions than either Tunisia or Egypt, both of which have been boiling just under the surface for a long time. So have Arabia and Jordan, of course, but the populations of the latter countries less are victimized by extreme poverty such as exists in the two already exploding countries. And Jordan and Arabia are smaller, easier to control than Egypt. The Saudi “security” forces are, if anything, even more brutal and efficient than those of Egypt.

It's a tossup at this moment as to whether the Jordanian and Saudi governments will be thrown out, I think. But what about Yemen and Algeria? No one can say at this point.

It is an extremely dangerous situation for this country and its European allies. The odds of it being resolved in anything close to acceptable manner for this country, or at least its politicians, seem small.

The countries now in revolt are not extreme Islamist states. The populations, though they tend to be religious, also generally have favored secular government. But that was true of Iran, too, before 1979.

Over and over, governments of the United States, whether controlled at any given time by Republicans or Democrats, have created and supported vicious, repressive governments elsewhere in the world, most notably in the Middle East and Latin America. Inevitably, the people trying to live under the heels of those governments explode at some point; they're not always successful at overthrowing their oppressors, but sometimes they are.

Our politicians, led, bullied and made fearful by the heads of corporations that profit hugely from exploiting the countries of the dictators and oligarchies, repeat the same mistakes, decade after decade –- or, one could reasonably say now, century after century.

The people of those countries know that the United States is largely responsible for their miseries; they may be poor, but they are not stupid.

So almost always, when the bullies and “strong men” are overthrown, the new governments are hostile to this country.

How could it be otherwise?

Today, in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, Egyptians are holding up the depleted tear gas cannisters that were fired at them by their hated government's security forces and pointing to the “made in the U.S.A.” labels.

Also inevitably, the punks, thugs and gangsters that exist everywhere have started looting in the major Egyptian cities. And, just as similar organizations have done everywhere there is trouble in the Middle East, the extremist Muslim Brotherhood is rapidly organizing to protect residents and small business owners against the thugs, and thus establishing itself as an organization to turn to for security and help in dangerous times.

If Hosni Mubarak goes quickly, and if his hand-picked Number Two, Omar Suleiman, isn't immediately rejected (or has the good sense to step down in turn), Egypt might come out of the current mess with a rational government. I wouldn't bet the house on it, but it's possible.

If Mubarak hangs on too long, or if Suleiman, the long-time “security” chief, decides that he can rule in Mubarak's place, it's pretty clear that an unstable government hostile to the West will emerge. Mubarak managed to kill or drive out all potential opposition during his 30-year reign. There is no opposition party or figure ready to step in. But the mad Islamists are ready.

And, again, we could see the same thing happening quickly in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Turn to the executives of the multi-national corporations and to the weak-kneed politicians of both major parties and say, “Thanks for the chaos and the threat to our safety.”

But also give some thought to a big question entirely ignored thus far:

Faced with an Arab world turned truly hostile and dangerous, what will Israel do?

The plain fact, never to be mentioned in this country, is that Israel could have had peace long before now, but it's leaders never wanted peace as most of the western world thinks of it. From the day Israel was established, it has been governed almost continually by people who want to expand its territory, push out or otherwise eliminate Palestinian residents of nearby territories and control the region, with or without strongman Arab allies.

If extreme Islamist governments control two, three, four or more Arab countries in the region, Israel will be faced with a genuine external threat, as opposed to the threats it continually manufactures to gin up support in this country and elsewhere.

A genuinely threatened Israel is a fearful thing to contemplate. Its leaders are no more stable than their Islamic counterparts. What might they do? Starting a war of pre-emption is a distinct possibility. That might well include hitting their Arab neighbors with nuclear weapons.

That will seem wildly far-fetched to most Americans. I don't think it is. Remember that Israeli officials have pressed this country at times to attack Iran.

And if it happens, what will this country do? There is in this country a huge bloc of support for Israel no matter what it does, and the majority of Americans still seem to believe that we must support Israel in all situations. Many Americans still see Israel as the poor little victim of Arab hostility -– despite its massive military might, created through the generosity of our corporations and politicians and billions of our tax dollars.

Better think about these things now. At the rate the revolutions are developing, there may not be much time to figure out where you stand and what to do about it.