Syria Spurs A Few Arabs to Rethink Israel. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, June 19, 2013.
Syrian sent to Israeli hospital with note attached. By Judy Siegel-Itzkovitch. Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2013.
Gulf Shi’ites fear blame for Syrian conflict. Reuters. Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2013.
surprising side effect of Syria’s civil war is that it’s causing a few people
in the Arab world to question their society’s accepted view of Israel as evil
incarnate. These people are still very much a minority: The majority’s attitude
is exemplified by the Syrian rebel commander who, without batting an eyelash,
last month espoused the delusional theory that “Iran and Hezbollah are cooperating
with Israel” to support Syrian President Bashar Assad. Nevertheless, two
notable examples of a rethink have surfaced recently.
involved a seriously wounded Syrian treated at an Israeli hospital this month.
He isn’t the first Syrian to be treated in Israel, but he was the first to
arrive with a note from the Syrian doctor who treated him initially. “To the
honorable doctor, hello,” it began, before launching into a description of his
symptoms, his treatment to date and suggestions for further treatment. “Please
do what you think needs to be done,” it concluded. “Thanks in advance.”
Syrian doctor who wrote that note clearly didn’t view Israelis as enemies, but
as colleagues who could be trusted to give his patient the care he himself
couldn’t provide. It indicates that word has filtered out to at least parts of
Syria: Good medical care is available in Israel, and patients who need it can
safely be sent there.
even more remarkable, however, was a Friday sermon given earlier this month by
a cleric in Qatif, a Shi’ite-majority city in Saudi Arabia. Discussing the
conflict in Syria, Sheikh Abdullah Ahmed al-Youssef informed his congregants
that more Muslims have been killed by fellow Muslims than were ever killed by
isn’t news to anyone familiar with the facts. As I noted last month, the Syrian
conflict alone has killed more than five times as many people in just two years
as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has in all of Israel’s 65 years of
existence. And that’s without even mentioning the ongoing Muslim-on-Muslim
carnage in places like Iraq (almost 2,000 killed in the last three months) or
Pakistan, much less historical events like the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, which
killed more than one million people.
most Arabs aren’t familiar with the facts, having been fed delusional atrocity
tales about Israel for decades by their media and their political, religious,
cultural and intellectual leaders. Thus for a cleric to stand up in the mosque
and tell his congregants this home truth borders on the revolutionary.
attitude spreads, it would benefit not just Israel, or even the elusive quest
for Mideast peace, but above all, the Arabs themselves. This isn’t merely
because Israel has much to offer Arab countries on a practical level (like
water management technologies essential for agriculture in a drought-stricken
region), but mainly because Arab society’s biggest problem has always been its
habit of blaming outsiders–Israel and the West–for all its ills. By so doing,
they not only absolve themselves of responsibility, but also nourish the belief
that these ills are beyond their control, and hence beyond their own power to
recognizing that Israel is not the monster of their own imagining, Arabs can
begin the process of recognizing that their problems are of their own making
rather than the product of malign outside intervention. And only then can they
begin the long, hard work of fixing them.