The Happy Arab News Service




Monday, December 25, 2006




Money is NOT everything

Herb Keinon makes a bloody good point in his "It's about ideology, stupid" in today's JPost. Commenting on the recent decision to free some funds for Abbas in order to "strengthen the moderates", HK writes:

The problem with this approach, however, is that it underestimates the strength of religion and ideology in the society, and reduces everything to shekels and agarot. It is a throwback to the Shimon Peres way of thinking of the early 1990s, that if you just improved the Palestinian economic situation, peace would spring up along with the next branch of McDonalds.

While few dispute that destitution nurtures terrorism, alleviating the poverty will not necessarily dry up the reservoir of terrorists. Remember that those who brought down the World Trade Center were not destitute refugees in rags.

In my view this misunderstanding, HK refers to, stems from the fact that the Israeli secular culture is deeply hedonistic and materialistic in its essence. In this it just follows the global trend dominating the West over the last decades. Though at times this culture may present a vocal anti capitalist/anti materialistic facade, it's not hard to see that behind it is hiding the same hedonistic principle of life is there to be enjoyed. The point made is usually that small joys of life are just more enjoyable than the rats race after money and status, and this point is made by the same culture that recently has got so keen on using pain killers to squeeze out of life the last trace of discomfort, that it starts worrying the medical profession.

This culture is hardly capable of making any sense of such notions as pride and honor that play an important role in the Arab culture. And it's plainly struggling to come to terms with the fact that for some people there can be more to life than just planting flowers and smiling to strangers, or incessantly analyzing psychological soap operas in a vain attempt to fish out something of relevance to the feelings of loneliness and emptiness that besiege too many people in this society.

HK points to the fact that, as Lebanon/Gaza show, our conflict with the Arabs is much more about ideology/religion than it's about territory. And in relation to the idea of propping up the moderates by providing them with money, as a way to buy the Arab street out of its extremism, he says:

. . . for whatever reason - and they are myriad - an extreme ideology is on the ascent from Afghanistan to the Sudan. And it is an ideology that is more attractive to the masses - or so it now seems - than the stodgy, bland, often corrupt alternatives offered up by the Arab "moderates."

HK mentions the recently spotted trend that the last war has driven a real wedge between the moderate Arab regimes of Mubarak/king Abdullah and the Arab street that went absolutely extatic after the Hezbollah's 'divine victory'. Yet the Israeli secular culture is still deluding itself with weird notions about the Arab street being manipulated into extremism by their rulers, though it's easy to see that just the opposite is true. The Israeli secular culture is scared, and with a very good reason, to find out that on the other side many ordinary people may be ready to sacrifice their lives and their well being for something 'better' than just 'lets have a nice dialog' or some bizarre affirmations that 'we all have something in common'.

The "universal brotherhood" and "we are all human beings" that's filling the air all around contrasts sharply with an easily observable fact that at the personal level too many people in Tel Aviv are simply lonely or have to satisfy themselves with very shallow friendships. The half desperate half obsessive preoccupation of many Israelis with "talking to neighbors" in order to stop wars and save lives should be viewed against the background of the extensively commented upon fact that the share of the settlers and Kibbutz members among soldiers who died in the last war was out of any proportion to their share of population, while such a bastion of 'war prevention' as Tel Aviv has been largely spared its share of casualties. It goes without saying that in this region peace is a prize only for those who are desperate not for achieving it at any price and with closed eyes.

HK got a nice way to end his masterpieace while avoiding falling into either extreme:

Which doesn't mean that Saturday night's decision to try and prop up the moderates in the PA was wrong. Just that it should be done with eyes wide-open, fully aware that in this part of the world - where religion and ideology have such a powerful pull - money isn't everything, and throwing money at the problem won't necessarily solve it.

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Proclaimed Nobody at 12:10 PM

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