Home Alone in the Muslim World
Home Alone in the Muslim World

Alone in the Muslim World

Leon Panetta visited Israel to warn about its "growing isolation" and he is half right. Right about the isolation and wrong about the growing part.

Israel is isolated in the Middle-East, but its isolation is a constant reality, not a growing phenomenon. It is not isolated because of its policies, as its critics claim, but because its identity is at odds with a region dominated by Arab-Muslims whose national identities is closely tied to ethnicity and religion.

Israel is isolated in the same way that the United States and Canada are isolated among a hemisphere of Latino states or they would be if they paid attention to what was going on south of the border. But the North American anglos have enough land and population to ignore the commonplace hostility of their southern neighbors. Enough breathing room that most in the north are unaware that there is a rivalry in the south.

With its tiny territory, a sizable minority population that is from the regional majority (something that is also becoming an issue in the United States) and nothing in the way of a buffer zone, the isolation is much more extreme for the only non-Muslim and non-Arab state in the Middle-East. But there is one additional factor. Israel's difference is not merely ethnic or racial, it's also religious. And the religion it's surrounded by is a creed which views mass murder as an acceptable solution to religious differences. 

If Sunnis and Shiites can't get along with one another, how exactly is Israel expected to overcome a much more fundamental isolation?

Israel will always remain isolated in a region defined by religion and race. There is no way around that and no amount of peace processes and policies will change that. There is a measurable distance between Iran and the rest of the region because it is Persian and Shiite. In the same way there is a distance between Turkey and the rest of the region because it is non-Arab. No matter how much Iran and Turkey get out front to lead the Jihad, they will always be on the outs.

There have only been two defining movements in the region: Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism. The protests and revolutions of the Arab Spring have only been a means of advancing the goals of Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism. Israel's Jews, like the Kurds, the Persians and the Turks, have no place in a Pan-Arabist region. Unlike all of them, Israel's Jews are completely on the outs in a Pan-Islamist scheme.

If Israel's isolation has grown, it is because the region has shifted further into the Pan-Islamist column after Turkey's Islamist rulers succeeded in bringing down the central pillar of the secular state. There is nothing Israel could do to reverse this isolation except convert en masse to Islam. And even if it that it would be the wrong kind of Islam as far as the Shiites of Iran or the Alawite rulers of Syria are concerned.

While the old British foreign policy hands, bastards though they were, innately understood all this, the Muslim world has successfully framed the conflict in terms of the Palestinian Arabs, whom they keep around as cheap labor and cheap killers. The drumbeat of pressure on Israel to somehow create a Palestinian state as a means of ending its isolation is a wrongheaded conclusion drawn from the cynical propaganda of failed regimes.

Israel cannot end its isolation, because its isolation is the product of regional identity, not policy. Much of the Middle East has backchannels to Israel and carries on covert forms of trade with Israel. At the same time their newspapers and television states attack Israel whenever a ruler needs a convenient scapegoat. Any normalization that happens will be equally impermanent and will be reversed the moment that the situation at home changes. This is what happened in Egypt.

Israel is hated because it is different and it survives because it is powerful. It is powerful because its military is used for external defense, rather than internal repression. This sets it apart from the Muslim world where militaries are used primarily for internal repression.

A Middle Eastern army that becomes strong enough is called a government. Middle Eastern countries that are large enough to field a large army rarely need it as a defense against an invasion and small countries are rarely capable of fielding a competent army because they lack the professionalism and don't see the point. Instead they rely on agreements with larger neighbors that keep them from being gobbled up.

Israel is the exception as a tiny country fielding a large army. It is able to do this because of its level of competence and because its internal stability means that the military does not need to be used for domestic repression, is not at risk of carrying out a coup and does not need to be composed of a ruling minority.

These are very important points and they form the backbone of Israeli exceptionalism. But they are also being eroded.

The drive to negotiate with the terrorists and appease by ethnically cleansing its own population has made Israel very unstable. The left is obsessed with using the military for the domestic repression of the right, while at the same time terrified that the majority of the military will soon be composed of a group that is culturally and theologically opposed to their agenda.

The Israeli military has always been mixed in with the government, and generals easily transition into politicians, but unlike the rest of the region it has never happened at gunpoint. However  the left is intent on forcing the military to choose sides in the civil war that they are doing their best to create. The growing polarization is having a negative impact on the viability of the IDF as a fighting force and the Second Lebanon War tragically demonstrated that.

But the primary source of the instability is the pipeline of Muslim pressure on America and Europe, becoming American and European pressure on Israel, which turns into domestic instability at home. Usuing the West as a tool, the Muslim world has managed to destabilize Israel and that threatens its survival as a democracy, and its survival as a democracy threatens the viability of its defenses.

Israel is told to abandon much of its territory and its identity, and wreck its military by turning it against its own citizens in the hopes of normalizing relations with the region. If not, then it will face regional and global isolation. Either you kill yourself or I'll kill you.

It's a neat trap and a devil's bargain because most people will choose to take control of a situation even if it's to their own detriment. Given a choice between chopping off their own hand or being shot in the head, they'll choose the former. Worse yet they'll do it to show how cooperative they're willing to be. And once they've agreed to chop off their hand, then they can't very well argue over a foot or two.

Give your enemy a choice between safe passivity and foolish action on a single open path and you can crush his forces every time. Make the foolish action seem noble and inevitable and you can go home early.

The Muslim world can't maintain stability in its own countries, because its Pan-this and Pan-that which always leave someone one, but it is excellent at destabilizing other countries, at spreading rumor and innuendo, at playing the aggrieved victims, at street theater accompanied by bouts of violence.

As the saner parts of the world are losing their minds and agreeing to commit suicide, they expect Israel to follow suit. To jump into the sea in the name of some greater global harmony. Panetta is only the latest messenger boy toting a big briefcase filled with the same bad news. "You've got to work harder, really put your back into appeasing those terrorists. Throw in Jerusalem, Ariel and whatever else you've got."

But no matter what Israel does it will remain isolated and that's a good thing.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. The only country without leaders for life or freedoms for no one. The only country where you don't lose any rights by being born with XX chromosomes and going to be a different house of worship does not make you an enemy of the state. It's a country bursting with ideas and debates, with technology and creativity and that offers a level of human rights completely foreign to the rest of the region.

Being alone in the Muslim world is not a bad thing morally, though it may be a bad position to be in defensively. That sense of isolation is wearying and dehumanizing, an endless horizon that seems as if it could be bridged with only a little effort. But that is an illusion.

On a map Israel seems isolated, but in truth it is the Muslim world which is isolated. It is the Muslim world that has carved itself up into tiny enclaves, each sect, each people, each street divided against itself. The chaos in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya are a reminder of the internal fragmentation and isolation of the Muslim world. An isolation so pervasive that it cannot be overcome except through temporary alliances against a common foe. An ultimate "Other".

Israel has not been isolated by its choices, but by the cultural failures of its neighbors. As long as its neighbors deal with their own instability through war and tyranny in the name of collective identities that they cannot sustain, that will not change.


  1. If you want to see what Arab and non-Arab muslims will do when forced to coexist together, look at Darfur. Arab muslims see themselves as the superior race (like nazis, but the arabs thought of it first), so all other muslims should just bow down to their "betters." If Israel ever gets her act together and throws out the killers in their midst, the muslim world (without the convenient scapegoat) will be left to face up to its own problems and probably explode in violence on itself.

  2. After 63 years of enduring hell from the sea of Muslims who won't accept its existence, Israel has earned the right to expel all of them and expand its territory from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Mediterranean to the Jordan in order to be able to have permanent security. In other words, JEHOVAH was right.





  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1N1zhUm84w
    the latest Pat Condell (thanks Sultan for letting me use your blog's space to spread this spoken truth next to your written ones)
    Gmar chatima towa

  4. Just want to knit-pick one point:
    "If Sunnis and Shiites can't get along with one another, how exactly is Israel expected to overcome a much more fundamental isolation?"

    Truth is they hate each other as much as they hate Jews. They blow up each other's children at the blink of an eye. Hate is their fuel of life. It's just that against Jews the cowards can count on less complicated strategy - to indulge their perversions.

  5. I agree with you about how the Arab nations are fragmented. There is more, though.

    One of the first thing I learned about Judaism many moons ago was the difference between Christianity and Judaism was that Judaism is a religion of deed while Christianity is a religion of creed.

    Islam is a religion of creed and deed. Their creed and deeds are evil and violent, based on the Koran and the hadiths. Judaism's are holy, merciful, kind, based on the Torah.

    It's a battle of creeds and deeds and always will be, it seems.


    Even though the Arab nations are so dysfunctional and fragmented Israel could still kick *** and take names. For all of the world criticism about Lebanon 2 (if that's the correct battle) the IDF was impressive and it was next to impossible to ignore their might.

    And despite all of the criticism of excessive force, Israel was restrained. Can you imagine Israel unbound and full force?

    I read that during the Six Day War the IDF were encouraged to wear tefillin--secular and religious. Not exactly sure why but there seems something very powerful about that.

    Anyway, wonderful article.

  6. Square dreidel in a crescent hole.

  7. @ S. Richard

    Even more interesting is there are hadeeths that specifically refer to Muhammad, PASBUH, as a white man:

    Bukhari, vol. I., no. 63
    Bukhari, vol. IV., no. 744
    Bukhari, vol. II., no. 122

    No wonder Hitler admired islamonazism!

  8. Kristin Solo6/10/11

    The source of the conflict can be traced back to Isaac and Ishmael.
    Isaac was chosen, Ishmael was rejected = divisive destiny !
    Isaac's descendants were the Chosen People, a microcosm of Mankind's relationship with God...
    'And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name' > 2 Samuel 7:23.
    Ishmael's descendants bear the characteristics of their forefather...
    ' He will be a wild ass of a man whose hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him'> Genesis 16:12
    Israel is located at the centre of The Earth. It stands alone as a testimony of Divine intent & purpose.
    It is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab Nations which are intent on its annihilation.
    On the surface of it,there is no solution to the Mid East conflict apart from that.
    Israel's perpetual regional isolation is extending into global isolation, as the article infers, but the greater danger is that Israel will subsequently become a pariah nation and will consequently become expendable in the greater interests of global harmony!
    However, the very existence of The State of Israel after 2000 years of The Diaspora culminating in the Holocaust is nothing short of a miracle, as is its survival
    despite persistent Arab aggression & repeated military siege since 1948 to the present day!
    Israel is here to stay!
    Nations may reject Israel but GOD has chosen her and however much the nations conspire against Israel, it is The Counsel of The Lord that will stand!

  9. http://bible.cc/genesis/25-9.htm
    Christian and Jewish text records that Ishamel and Issac came together to bury Abraham, their father.

  10. Kristin Solo7/10/11

    @ Lemon
    I concede that not all Arabs are descendants of Ishmael because the modern Arab World consists of many peoples.
    However,many of today's Arabs are Ishmaelites. Muhammad,the founder and prophet of Islam, claimed to be descended from Kedar, one of the 12 sons of Ishmael.
    The conflict between Isaac & his half brother Ishmael arose primarily because Ishmael was born 'according to the flesh' while Isaac had been born 'according to the promise'.
    Nevertheless, YHWH loved Hagar, the Egyptian slave and her son Ishmael, and 'had mercy on them'.
    God promised Hagar that her son would beget twelve princes who would become a great nation.
    Ishmael then went to live in the wilderness region of Hejaz in what became known as the Arabian Peninsula.
    He fathered twelve patriarchal sons listed as follows re Wikipaedia:

    Kedar, father of the Qedarites, (A northern Arab tribe that controlled the region between the Persian Gulf and the Sinai Peninsula). According to tradition, ancestor of Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe.
    Adbeel, established a tribe in northwest Arabia.
    Dumah, associated with Adummatu described as "a fortress of Arabia" in Saudi Arabia.
    Massa, father of a nomadic tribe that inhabited the Arabian desert toward Babylonia.
    Mahalath or Basemath, the third wife of Esau.

    Today 22 nations in the Middle East and North Africa are Arabic nations, most of whose people are adherents of Islam.
    An additional 35 countries are members of the Islamic Conference, most of them with Islamic governments, but whose people are of different descent.
    Even before Ishmael's descendants arrived in the area, the term Arab was used to denote the peoples of the Arabian peninsula.
    With the spread of Islam, Arabs and the Arabic language today encompass a vast region.
    The root of bitterness that began with Abraham's failure to trust in God's promise of a son and heir persists between the descendants of Isaac & Ishmael to this day.
    @ MK Gross...I believe all the descendants of Abraham are loved by God and that the only hope of reconciliation is in Him!
    Isaac and Ishmael apparently did meet again when Abraham died:
    "Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the Hittites
    There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife" Genesis 25:9-10
    The place today is known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where the conflict for control of it still rages between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael!

  11. Anonymous7/10/11

    SK do you know how non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East living under the thumb of Arab Muslims feel about Israel? They too live in isolation in the Arab Muslim dominated ME but without their own country and military to defend them like the Jews have, which probably is what bugs Arab Muslims most about Jews - they finally escaped that fate. Are they just as anti-Israel or are they more diverse in opinion and support for Israel?

  12. Firstly Panetta may not be so correct with his description because if one remembers he as CIA Director was getting news from the media.

    S. Richard,
    One can see the plight of the Copts in Egypt today to understand that it is already happening.
    What not many people seem aware of was how the PLO when exiled from Jordan to Lebanon spent much of their time slaughtering Lebanese Christians; for example the town of Damour in 1976.

  13. It depends on the minorities. Some Arab Christians still hope the pan-arabism and arab nationalism will work out. Others are not in a position to obtain any rights because they're too small a minority.

  14. Anonymous7/10/11

    As an American, the level of ignorance and appeasement of the muslim world makes me sick.
    I have faith though that G*D will never again forsake Israel.

  15. Lilly8/10/11

    Israel is isolated and overwhelmingly surrounded.It is a miraculous beacon of light in a dark night.

    Jews have been persecuted,stolen from and murdered simply for existing.They returned the favor by giving the world the greatest gifts it will ever receive.

    They have fought destruction and survived the worst horrors man could create while being constructive and innovative.

    This tiny group of people have led the world forward from the first group wandering lost in the desert to a tantalizing future,all the while being pushed relentlessly backwards.

    Israel is an arid,desolate spec of land barely sustainable or noticeable on a map.It is the most debated spot of land in the world.It is worthless and priceless.

    Is it a miracle it has survived?
    Or is it a miracle because miracles happened there?
    Maybe it is a miracle because the people believe in miracles and create miracles because they have experienced miracles.

    I don't know.But without Israel and Jews we would have no ten commandments,no Christianity and no Islam.
    We would be throwing rocks at each other,killing over ideals and hating for the sake of hate.

    I suggest it is time to use common sense and morals to create the final solution of the ONE state of Israel.To uphold the Balfour agreement.Begin at the beginning to create an end.
    Move the unhappy people to nice new homes on comfortable lands.Give them happiness in their holy lands,Mecca and Medina.

    Then plant the flag of Israel,repay the original miracle with a miracle, and go on with life.


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