The New Age of Ideology
The fact that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is an extreme ideologue belonging to the past, representing the most morally repugnant and militarily violent current in fundamentalist Zionism, can barely escape notice.
His history of massacres, military adventurism, and blind rejectionism is also self-evident.
As a local and regional player, Sharon has predictably brought upon Israel, Palestine, and the region untold woes, whether in the invasion of Lebanon (that had exacted a tragic toll in Lebanese, Palestinian, and Israeli lives) or in the notorious escapades of the brutal 101 unit that he had headed (dedicated to the destabilization of borders and neighboring Arab countries and to the cold-blooded carnage of Palestinian civilians) or in his current fire and brimstone policies and measures against the captive Palestinians with all its horrendous implications as a war policy destined to bring down death and destruction on all involved—both victims and perpetrators.
Given all that, it is unconscionable that the “bulldozer” has somehow been transformed to become a global player, bringing his lethal policies to bear on the world arena of international relations and threatening to extend the mayhem beyond the boundaries of Israel and the region.
The alarm bells being sounded in Europe, particularly as articulated by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine or by the EU executive and legislative leadership, are not emerging from a vacuum.
Their real intended audience is, appropriately, the US administration, and in particular the White House.
Arab leaders as well are beginning to voice their concern at the American inability or lack of willingness to come to grips with the requirements of regional stability, while giving Sharon a free hand to wreak havoc in their neck of the woods and allowing him to agitate their publics and threaten their own stability. The Israeli occupation’s brutal measures and cruelty towards the Palestinians, the apparent American inaction or collusion, and the lack of any political focus or promise of action are the main sources of incitement and extremism.
The post-September 11 era in the US has heralded in a new age of ideology whose discourse and world views have served not only to accommodate such extremist views as those held by Sharon, but also to provide him with a platform and an influence that were unthinkable only a year ago.
Thus while the American President is busy devising a new Manichean universe of absolute good and absolute evil, pronouncing policy on the basis of a simplistic polarization of the world, and unilaterally defining the terms while categorizing state and non-state actors accordingly, Sharon’s Israel has maneuvered itself into a position of even greater power on the world stage provided explicitly by the US.
The powerful pro-Israeli lobby and special interest groups and organizations have played a major role in formulating US foreign policy while providing a thick smoke screen for the distortion and obfuscation of public discourse and media presentation in the US. Thus, by blurring the divide between domestic issues of self-interest and international policy as a matter of global responsibility, Israel has positioned itself in such a way as to shape the agenda while evading accountability.
President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech played directly into Sharon’s hand, simultaneously legitimizing “unilateralism” and the undermining of international law while claiming exclusivity of values and the right to use unbridled (and accountable) force to achieve immediate ends.
Those, precisely, have been the hallmarks of Israeli policy all along. Add to that the perpetuation of the most brutal (and last remaining) military occupation in history “enjoying” the cover of impunity provided by its strategic alliance with the US, and you have a most alarming formula for lawlessness, radicalization, violence, and destabilization.
With the facile handing out of convenient labels, the dehumanization of the “other” is thereby rendered official, contributing to the subversion of the principle of equality before the law and to the suspension of communication (dialogue, negotiations) as a means of conflict resolution.
The compartmentalization of the world into “evil-doers” (contrasted with do-gooders?) or “terrorists” as opposed to “allies” or members of the coalition in the “war against terrorism” does not even begin to handle the complexities of present realities and conflicts.
Pitting the subjectively designated forces of “good” against the forces of “evil” is liable to create a global collision course with disastrous consequences, as is usual in such puerile “with” and “against” tagging.
Such a “value system” can boast of no greater travesty than the designation of the Israeli occupation as “self defense” with Sharon positioned on the side of “good,” while the Palestinians are labeled as “terrorists” and relegated to the realm of “evil.”
Rather than adopting a policy of positive engagement, dialogue, and inclusion with Iran, the US administration (egged on by Israel to adopt its definition of “enemy” or “threat”) is seeking confrontation and issuing threats that would undermine the forces of moderation and galvanize the Iranian public to support the more extremist forces while fueling greater anti-American sentiments.
Rather than lifting the punitive sanctions (that have victimized the whole Iraqi population) and giving the Iraqi people room to breathe and develop a democratic system (as distinct from the stifling survival mode), the US administration is coordinating with Israel its next military moves against Iraq and attempting to placate Arab regimes by promising some vague future moves on the Palestinian-Israeli front.
Rather than a bold initiative to end the Israeli occupation and establish the independent (and viable) Palestinian state in accordance with UN resolutions 242 and 338, the US is turning a blind eye to Sharon’s lethal brand of ideology as practiced through Apache gun ships, F 16’s, tanks and bulldozers, while compounding the oppression by demanding that the key to the Palestinian leadership’s legitimacy is through compliance with Israeli demands and priorities.
The world is still paying for the mistakes of the post WW II and the cold war era with all its “-isms” and “the end justifies the means” approach.
Instead of the promise of an inclusive, interactive, and integrated global approach to human development and conflict resolution, the new ideology is threatening to impose an artificial construct of exclusivity and polarization, not only as a parallel to the past paradigm, but also as a source of tremendous injustice and conflict.
The ominous outcome seems to be a repetitive pattern and a recurrent cycle of shortsighted action and irresponsible reaction with fatal long-term global ramifications.