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What They Are Saying
British historian Paul Johnson writes in the June issue of Commentary (www.commentarymagazine. com) that the Arab world has paid a heavy price for its anti-Jewish obsessions:
"Over the last half-century, anti-Semitism has been the essential ideology of the Arab world; its practical objective has been the destruction of Israel and the extermination of its inhabitants. This huge and baneful force, this disease of the mind, has once again had its customary consequence.
"Just as Hitler ended his life a suicide - having failed in his mission of destroying the Jewish people - so 100 million or more Arabs, marching under the banner of anti-Semitism, have totally failed, despite four full-scale wars and waves of terrorism and intifadas without number, to extinguish tiny Israel.
"In the meantime, by allowing their diseased obsession to dominate all their aspirations, the Arabs have wasted trillions in oil royalties on weapons of war and propaganda-and, at the margin, on ostentatious luxuries for a tiny minority. In their flight from reason, they have failed to modernize or civilize their societies, to introduce democracy or to consolidate the rule of law. Despite all their advantages, they are now being overtaken decisively by the Indians and the Chinese, who have few natural resources but are inspired by reason, not hatred.
"Yet still the Arabs feed off the ravages of the disease, imbibing and spreading its poison. … Turkey, once a bastion of moderation with a thriving economy, is now a theater of anti-Semitism, where hatred of Israel breeds varieties of Islamic extremism. At a time when at long last there is real hope of democracy taking root in the Arab and Muslim world, the paralysis continues and indeed is spreading.
"In Europe, too, anti-Semitism has returned after being supposedly banished forever in the late 1940s. Fueled by large and growing Muslim minorities, whose mosques and Web sites propagate hatred of Jews, it has also been nourished by indigenous elements, both intellectual and political.
"No less worrying, to my mind, is a related European phenomenon - namely, anti-Americanism. I say 'related' because anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have proceeded hand in hand in today's Europe just as they once did in Hitler's mind. Among academics and intellectuals, where it is increasingly prevalent, it has more of the hallmarks of a mental disease, becoming more virulent, widespread and intractable ever since the United States began to shoulder the duties of the war against international terrorism."
Check, Checkmate: Human 'Chess Pieces' Tear at Israel's Heart and Soul
Columnist John Podhoretz writes in the New York Post (www.nypost.com) on June 10 that Israel's policy is sound, if hard to swallow:
"For the past 18 months, the Israeli government under Ariel Sharon has been charting an agonizing course for the country. It is euphemistically called 'disengagement,' which is a nice way of saying 'unilateral withdrawal.'
"Sharon determined that Israel's status quo was not sustainable, that it could not stand still as Palestinian population growth continued to dwarf Israeli population growth to a point where there would be more Palestinians living under Israeli occupation than there were Israelis.
"His solution: Offload Gaza, the heavily populated piece of land Israel took in 1967 as it marched to confront Egypt.
"The Israeli government would happily have restored Gaza to Egyptian control after the war - if Egypt had been willing to negotiate. Instead, Egypt declared there would be no deals with Israel - and thereby got rid of its own Palestinian albatross.
"Now Sharon wants to do what Egypt did - get rid of an albatross and force the hand of the Palestinians. The disengagement policy says, simply, 'You want a state? Fine. Here's a chunk of land with more than a million Palestinians on it. Make it work. We're done.'
"The decision was and is strategically controversial, because some fear that the end of Israeli occupation will give the Palestinians an unparalleled opportunity to arm themselves and renew terrorism.
"But what makes the Gaza disengagement even more painful is the people. The people of Gush Katif and the other settlements have fanned out across Israel, telling their story and trying to convince their fellow Israelis that Jews shouldn't be a party to the removal of Jews from their homes.
"It's a heart-rending moment for the Jewish state. But the numbers tell the tale. There are 8,000 Jews living in Gaza - among 1.5 million Palestinians. And those 8,000 Jews couldn't reside there without the protection of thousands of Israeli soldiers and police officers.
"Sharon has determined that the investment is not worth the cost. But the residents of Gush Katif and the other settlements are in the right as well. Not because they should stay in such inhospitable and unsustainable quarters. But because they have been used as chess pieces by a government playing geopolitical games - and human beings are not chess pieces."
Formula for Democracy? Evolution!
Columnist Thomas Oliphant writes in The Boston Globe (www.boston.com) June 14 that the struggle for Middle East democracy is a complicated battle:
"For those who understand the importance to the United States of political change and, ultimately, democracy in the Middle East, it is fine to protest Egyptian boss Hosni Mubarak's shabby treatment, including jail time, of a nonviolent opposition figure like Ayman Nour.
"That protest, however, loses some of its force when the United States does nothing about the imprisonment of three men in Saudi Arabia for the crime of advocating a constitutional monarchy or the jailing of bloggers in Bahrain or the latest crackdown on political opposition in Jordan.
"In 2002, for example, when the president first began his change-promoting Middle East Partnership Initiative, the United States was spending just under $29 million for that purpose in the region. The number jumped some the following year, but while the administration asked for $145 million last year, all it got was a third of that, with the bulk of the money going to Iraq.
"To make lasting progress, what is required is persistence, consistency, patience, discrimination and skill.
"This is the conclusion of a report for the Council on Foreign Relations this month by a task force chaired by political figures with the best of human-rights credentials - Democrat Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, and Republican Vin Weber, a former congressman from Minnesota.
"Outside of Iraq, the United States sends about $5.5 billion annually in aid to the region, with Egypt the primary recipient. The report concludes that we have only begun to promote change and democracy, and we do not always do so consistently.
"Albright says we should be promoting evolution over revolution, with the sophisticated awareness that elections are not panaceas, and sometimes are less important in the short term than the development of institutions hospitable to democracy."