Gaza War: When beliefs and reality don't coexist — Opinion

Shai YakirHead of Content, i24NEWS English | @Shai_Yakir
7 min read
The Palestinian terrorists are heading towards the frontal barrier with Israel from Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on October 7, 2023
Said Khatib/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Palestinian terrorists are heading towards the frontal barrier with Israel from Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on October 7, 2023

Have any of those who lecture Israel on its "abuse of power" ever stopped to wonder why there is no other liberal democracy in the Middle East?

After endless articles, experts, TV debates and tweets on the Gaza war and the question remains: Who's right, who is to blame, why did the war break out?  

For every interviewee who comes to present the Israeli side of the story, someone else appears to give the Palestinian side, which makes debates very energetic, heated and full of emotion.  

I tend to shake my head with disbelief when people like Jeremy Corbyn (good riddance to his political career), Owen Jones, a columnist for The Guardian, and even John Oliver try to educate the audience with their vast knowledge of the events that took place over the course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, all voiced with firm confidence that they are right on every point that they bring up.

But — or rather, BUT — at the end of the day, none of them have ever lived or spent a significant part of their lives in the Middle East. 

Which prompts the question: Does a person who has read many books and has degrees and has spoken with many people about, let's say, the taste of green apples, but has never actually eaten a green apple – can such a person really know what it tastes like?

Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Tomer Neuberg/Flash90Hostage families march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

These people who I mentioned, and the many others like them who use phrases such as "Israel is carrying out a genocide of Palestinians," "Israel is a terrorist state," "Israel carries out war crimes," and so on — have any of them ever asked the simple question, "Why, in the entire Middle East region and North Africa, in the middle of which Israel is located, is there not even one country that is a liberal democracy like in Europe or the U.S.?"  

Have they ever asked themselves why in this entire region, issues such as human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and gay rights, are not exactly at the top of the agenda of the governments and rulers? Why, in every country from Afghanistan to the sea, is liberal ideology a minority view or even totally suppressed?  

Yasin AKGUL / AFPPeople hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, imprisoned in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women

From Iran to the sea, no person is really free....

For anyone who grew up or lives in the Middle East, the answer is clear, and the concept is a little different than the Western intellectual point of view. 

The basics of leadership in the countries of this neighborhood are respect for strength, honor and power — and also an element of religion. These are concepts which simply don’t co-exist with the basics of how leadership is perceived in the world of liberal democracies. Or, to put it simply, we're talking about different people, a different way of life, different beliefs and a different point of view.    

And every time Western countries try to impose their way of governance in the region it doesn’t end very well. There are plenty of examples:

"Operation Freedom" in 2003, where the U.S. and Britain thought they could topple Saddam Hussein and create a thriving democracy in Iraq. Or Afghanistan, where the post-2003 invasion democracy didn’t survive very long. 

Even in Egypt in 2012, when the masses overthrew Hosni Mubarak at the beginning of the Arab Spring leading to democratic elections being held under U.S. pressure. The result was a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, and in its short rule it began to partially implement Islamic Sharia law, which in turn led to huge demonstrations, a subsequent military coup, and the decade-long rule of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

HANDOUT / SAUDI PRESS AGENCY / AFPRiyadh Region Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Aabdulaziz (R) receiving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Riyadh.

Israel's situation is different from the rest of the countries in the Middle East. 

This is because, on the one hand, Israel wants to be part of the Western world and to have a liberal democracy where the rights of the citizens are respected. But on the other hand, its neighbors are Hezbollah, Hamas and President Assad of Syria. Thus, it has to behave accordingly, and there will be many contradictions to the fundamental beliefs of the progressive left.

(AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)
(AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip crosses the Rafah border gate in Rafah, Egypt.

There were times that Israelis could live up to the "humanitarian standards" of countries who have borders with Canada or Wales (such as in the mid-1990's after the Oslo Accords were signed). 

Then there are periods like today, after Israel has been dragged into war, when if it doesn’t speak in the language its neighbors understand and respect, it will not survive.

So, to all the people who lecture Israel on its "abuse of power in the war" and think there is a better and more humane way to fight Hamas, Hezbollah or the jihadists in Syria who invaded or plan to invade Israeli territory, to rape women, to behead or burn alive parents and children tied together, and then hide among their civilian population. Well, you are all welcome to come and live in the region for a couple of years. 

And then come tell us your ideas.

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