Ben Sen's Blog

Politics, Culture and Religion Without Projections

Ben Sen

Ben Sen
New York, N.Y.,
December 31
I'd rather be judged on the basis of my posts than anything written in my bio. It's put down and gathered as a record of my experience and a response to what I see as the important issues in the world today. I don't pretend it's anything other than subjective. The purpose is to analyze, interpret, express opinions, challenge the status quo, open a few doors, and entertain. I heartily welcome ratings, comments and dialogue. That's what makes this media unique and valuable. It also keeps me honest and encouraged since I'm not getting paid. Take a risk and say something; it feels better. A "conversation" is essential for the growth of the individual and the collective. I have faith it extends beyond the confines of what is said here. "For it is necessary for awake people to be awake, or a breaking line may discourge us back to sleep, the signals we give--yes, no or maybe--should be clear: the darkness around us is deep." From A RITUAL TO READ TO EACH OTHER by William Stafford


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MAY 12, 2011 10:42AM

Is a Bloodbath in the Middle East Inevitable?

Rate: 5 Flag

     It's the unthinkable.  What nobody wants to imagine or accept.  A coalition of Arab states and Iran attacking Israel.  Until the downfall of Mubarak nobody would have predicted it.  Now the question is whether it is inevitable.

     Can there be much doubt what populist opinion is throughout the Muslim nations and what a democratic form of government could produce?  Egypt has already begun to change its policies.  There is no peace to point to, no compromises being discussed, no real hope given the current government of Israel, which pulls the strings, and nothing happening in the country of a political nature that indicates any changes are possible.  If Syria changes hands, the results could be more catastrophic.

     Religious fanaticism is rife on all sides and in the US where the Christian fundamentalist movement favors Israel and is intolerant.  Their version of "God," whether Islamic, Jewish, or Christian and their "destiny" and identities are at stake.  What more volatile potion is there?  If human history hasn't taught that, it has taught nothing.

     Religious fanaticism is the most lethal ideology known to man since it does not base its authority on the needs of humanity, but on the interpretations of the prophets, scriptures, and soothsayers of those religions.  Hopefully Americans at least got a glimpse from Bin Laden.  They cannot be refuted.  They are matters of belief totally removed from any laws or rules of civility.  Nobody can tell 'em nothin'.  They never could and never will.  The martyrs and fodder for a bloodbath are ready to go and have been for several generations.

     Far more unexpected alliances in the face of a common enemy have been made, and the perpetual need for an enemy to distract a people from their real problems never goes away.  It happened when the US went to war with Iraq.  Scapegoats put the consciences of the masses to rest.  They need think no further.  It is endemic throughout the ages.

     The United States could not, would not, and should not let Israel be destroyed.  It has the means, the political motivation, the leadership, and hopefully the objectivity to not contribute to a bloodbath any more than is necessary.  The settlements make a mockery of every government in Israel that has condoned them.  It says it wants peace, but as long as its been in the driver's seat it hasn't happen, and the wound to Arab/Iranian pride runs deep.  The regimes that prevented an alliance have broken down.

       Israel has made clear it is not going to yield of its own accord.  Its governments keep pressing for more concessions, making the most of any ploy it can to steer opinion in its favor--and finding fewer and fewer takers on the world stage.  Would you recognize the right of a nation to exist if it had a rope around your neck? 

      In the words of another OS subscriber, the "ball is in Israel's court," only I would add that's been the case since the Six Day War and they've used that ball to bludgeon the Palestinians.  If the impending UN resolution to grant Palestine statehood passes, it will be as much due to Israeli intransigence as Palestinian efforts and suffering.  That is unfortunate, but real.

     What choice is Israel giving those nations sympathetic with the Palestinians except war?  It's not "waking up"; it is becoming more intractable and obdurate, not less.  It says it is not mired in denial, but fully justified in its means and ends.  How that happened isn't a discussion, not in the country, and not anyplace else.  No reason can be brought to bear to bring it to its senses.  The few voices of protest are ignored and rejected.  Israel has let its religious right paint it into a corner.

     The question now, for the first time since the Six Day War is how much longer can it remain so defiant?  I wonder if Sharon had actually started to see that toward the end, and that is how the history books will record it: the last chance at rectification, lost, before the Arab nations awakened and the die was cast.

     It could well be the most horrible bloodbath in a lifespan that has already seen far too many.  The end of one of the most noble dreams of the 20 and 21st centuries.  That a people almost obliterated by fanaticism of one sort are then destroyed by fanaticism of another, even more deadly variety.  Perhaps even the Holocaust was only a prelude.

    The world may well wake to days, months and years of bloodshed even after the "great wars" are supposedly over, and for what--the sake of "God" and communal ideology?  Fifty years of living in fear hasn't been enough.  It's still "them" and what they have done--never "us" and the oppression "we" have caused.  Israel's own arrogance may one day be seen as its greatest enemy.

     How the religious literalists given this history can claim any relationship to anything that can be called "God" is beyond my understanding.  Their rabbis, imams, preachers and priests have deceived them.   Religion has its place, and always will, but when it's used against the interests of peace it doesn't expand consciousness but retards it. 

     It 's depravity they have put their faith into, not "God" if that word is to have any meaning in all the languages it is spoken.  It is zealotry that leads to war, not piety.  History is full of horrors that were far less predictable, and far less inevitable.



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It seems to me that the world turns on an axis lubricated with blood. There is no desire from the populace for an end to needless slaughter. We let our prejudice and bigotry religious and otherwise drive the way that society works. Religions shout peace and love to the world but in the houses of worship the implications are that either people join them or face the wrath of god meted out by their own hands.
I just do not understand. Why is it so hard just to say ENOUGH and walk away.
rated with hugs
I'm looking at the Arab Spring and I don't see people that are risking their lives by defying brutal, authoritarian regimes in order to address the plight of the Palestinians.

Their aspirations appear to be totally understandable -- basic human rights and economic reform.

They don't want to destroy Israel - they want to be Israel. And join the modern world.

But back to Palestine for a moment. How much has anyone really cared about their well being in the last few decades? In the Arab world -- not much that I can see.

So, the newly freed Arab masses are going to Twitter their newly elected representatives to attack Israel?
I think you're right to be anxious, but you should focus your anxiety on the internal state of affairs within Israel. First, I don't see any grand coalition between the Arab states and Iran to do in Israel. Iran is currently a dog chasing its tail ad infinitum internally and is totally discredited throughout the world. Now more than ever, Iran poses no threat to anyone except its hapless citizens who have to live under the paranoid dictatorship of the ayatollahs.

The Jasmine Revolution represents a step forward in the Middle East because citizens are expressing genuine yearnings for something resembling liberal democracy within their countries, even as they face serious repression from their tired, worn dictatorial leaders.

As I've said before, Israel is facing an existential challenge from within because all the idealistic aspirations that founded Israel are in danger of being flushed down the toilet by "one size fits all" security measures, real estate greed for colonizing more of the West Bank, governmental corruption, a right wing lust for power, and pure and simple racism against all Arabs and Palestinians in Israeli society.

The government of Israel HATES IT when someone says that Israel is practicing apartheid or acting like the bad old South African government, but it's true. And the same dastardly elements supporting the worst behaviors of Israel appear to still be in charge of American policies, where it's expected that the US will veto UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the fall. And this is despite the fact that the vast majority of world countries actually recognize Palestine right now.

I believe that many of the Arab countries will follow Egypt's lead and begin to take a more realistic and balanced approach towards Israel in the future. Egypt's foreign minister has made it clear that he does not regard Israel as an enemy. But Egypt's decision to drop the embargo of goods into Gaza and allow for a normalization of traffic should represent a wake-up call to Netanyahu and others. And isn't it curious that as soon as Israel's leaders step down from their government posts, that they then turn around and do 180s on various aspects of Israeli policies that are clearly verging on the almost insane, from the punitive treatment of Gaza to its paranoid fixation on Iran.

Clearly a small cabal of power hungry, greedy right wingers is feeling the heat in Israel. And we're beginning to see the same thing happen in America. In both cases, these bastards are digging their fingers in deep to hold on as long as they possibly can, and it's clear that they'll do anything to maintain their hegemony.

The only question is will the voice of reason (and I hate to coin a catchy phrase but) the silent majority of citizens in both countries be able to get some kinds of common sense out of government policies before the cabal in both countries drives Israel AND the United States off the cliff?
Thank you Lefty for your addition. I agree heartily with everything you say. My focus was more on the interchange between religion and politics within Israel, which I think is hard for many Americans who are not exposed to this sort of "conviction" to understand.

The Israeli form of govt. is best described as a "theocratic democracy," which is what I strongly suspect will also be true of the Arab governments as they form. The hope is that some new sectarian movement in Israel can begin to develop before it's too late, but I see very little evidence that it's happening, unless, as you say, they represent a "silent majority," that will come forward as conditions change.
Certainly, the potential exists for a bloodbath. Whenever there is a tidal wave of change such as that which is occurring in the Arab world right not, the instability raises serious questions. Still, I think the vast majority of people in the Mideast are rational human beings. Radicals have been in control of Iran for a generation, and not once have they mobilized for an offensive war. Radicals controlled Communist China throughout the 60's and much of the 70's, and despite the fears expressed in our own nation, China did not wage war against America. The nuclear umbrella has, so far, resulted in the complete lack of total war.

That's not to say it will remain that way, but I see the possibility of a bloodbath taking place not due to national policy of Arab or Persian states, but from a rogue terrorist with a small nuclear device.
Ben, I think you have noted the crux of the American anti-Israel argument: "My focus was more on the interchange between religion and politics within Israel, which I think is hard for many Americans who are not exposed to this sort of "conviction" to understand.

The Israeli form of govt. is best described as a "theocratic democracy," which is what I strongly suspect will also be true of the Arab governments as they form."

Much as any would deny it, America is a Christian country. From the days when nobody thought it possible to elect JFK, a [gasp] Catholic, to the overexcited reporting of the first Seder in the White House, the majority of Americans are white bread Christians. Nothing wrong with that, am just saying that no matter we have an African American president, it's a good thing he goes to church, not a mosque. Most Americans have no experience or *perspective* on the difficulty of merging religion with government because for them it's always been that way.

We have a de facto "theocratic democracy" right here at home. American fringe groups, zealots and haters, most, if not all proudly proclaim their Christianity while directing their bigotry at different (and often the same) targets with less deadly tactics. For now.

Regardless, I still say the issue over Israel is not theological or spiritual. It is a land war. More on that another time. Thank you for this thoughtful and provocative post.
A bloodbath? Who knows? Let us hope not, for the consequence could well be the Armageddon fundamentalists pray for. The Arab Spring has at least thrown up the possibility, however slim, that the peoples of the Mideast have at long last tired of scapegoats and come to see that the real enemy is not within, but without.

That is admittedly and audacious hope, especially since grievances against Israel are real, beginning with the fact its very existence is a slap in the face to Arab pride. One can only imagine the American reaction if China at some future date decided to cede the Midwest to its Muslim minority. Could we maybe give them the Southeast instead?

Arab paranoia is somewhat related to what America experienced with Communism. If we learned anything from Brinksmanship and McCarthyism, it is that we may have more to fear from fear itself than we do what from what we fear. Certainly, the insane paranoia of the Rabid Right in this country confirms that.
Correction: the real enemy is not within, but without. Obviously, I meant the reverse.

Opps. I actually don't agree that Iran is not a powerful force. Hezbolla gave Israel a scare last time, and I'm sure next time will be more powerful.

The nuke question is I think smoke and mirrors--but they will do anything to antagonize the US and Israel.
Interesting analysis. The dangerous coalition now of the Christian fundamentalists and the Zionists. Triangulating the Arabs. Strange opportunistic bedfellows but theocratic righteousness and military hawkishness is convenient for them, and the hawkishness which is comforting to PTB in Israel wooed a large percentage of the Jewish liberal left rightward ever since wars migrated from the Far East of Viet Nam and Cambodia to the Gulf. Suddenly there was the Jewish call to tribal-cronyism. Quite a profound blow to the momentum of liberalism. Enough to neuter it. Then along comes Obama who was a big tease for the haggard liberals but turned unforgivable in his lies to citizens of conscience and for peace.

I see Israel as a borderline paranoid personality with a dysfunctional bond with a spineless narcissistic friend of the US. AIPAC certainly did its intimidation job in the halls of US power. With an all or nothing borderline personality poor Obama can't do his hypocritical kabuki act of faux community organizing because Israel is all or nothing!!! And the only thing both parties agree on is protecting Israel. Bipartisanship to help themselves by helping Israel, hang what US citizens want. Israelis get universal healthcare and a hefty $3 billion a year, and nary is heard a discouraging word about Israel in the US corporate media.

And too many well educated and heretofore liberals in the US are knee-jerk defensive about the reality of Israel and its horrifying oppression of Palestinians. Some of these cherry-picking faux progressives very willing to tear into their own pathetic legacy party leaders and call out their corruption but unwilling to get near a criticism of Israel with a ten foot pole. Suddenly they are all authoritarian-followy, or Stockholm-syndromed. Wow. They will not entertain evidence of reality in Israel.

Having endured the collective outrageous tragedy of the Holocaust is not a blank check to pre-emptively bully out of over-kill self-protectionism. But to the borderline, it is the only game in town. This is indeed a tragic collective national sensibility. The enabling craven US has decided to join in the gang-think with Israel, not out of borderline sensibility but sociopathic imperial opportunism and adventurism and resources robbing, and thrown honor and integrity and empathy out the window. Hang the domestic and international common good. (And still they defend Obama, oy vey. And still Israel criticizes Obama, who is willing to betray for them, just needs a little more slack to make it look like he is a man of history! Impression management is such a big game for Obama. Too bad such little conscience and heart there.)

Progressive cronyism does not encourage much expression about Israel because it inconveniences its highly-sensitive and defensive Jewish koolaid drinking members. So the I/P situation will continue to bottleneck the re-growth of American liberalism.

My take.
Dyes run. Dies are cast.
To be more precise: Dyes run, a die is cast, and dice are cast.