“Israel is the ‘root cause’ of the problems of the Middle East….”

Published: 10 November 2007
Briefing Number 205

Click to Printclick here to print page

It is often claimed that Israel is the root cause of instability in the Middle East . This belief drives much of the international diplomacy aimed at “solving the Israeli-Arab conflict”. And it drives popular perceptions. When a majority of people in a UK public opinion poll in 2003 named Israel as the biggest single threat to world peace, this outcome was driven by the same belief – that Israel was the underlying cause of the region's problems, and of the world as a whole.

Here are some arguments for why this belief is a myth:-

•  Middle East instability is caused by many factors: the Sunni-Shiite schism; Islamism versus secular Arab nationalism; the struggle between autocracy and democracy in Arab countries; and relations with the West, Russia and the international community over natural resources. None of these can be resolved by any action Israel takes

•  Israel is an object of hatred, state-sponsored incitement and demonisation in virtually the entire Arab and Muslim world. By demonisation, we mean that Israel is depicted as persistently cruel and inhumane with no redeeming features

•  Few TV viewers in Arab countries would ever know that Israel Arabs have democratic rights, that Palestinians are treated in Israeli hospitals and defeat the Israeli authorities in the Israeli courts, or that Israeli leaders repeatedly offer the Palestinians opportunities for statehood and coexistence

•  Hatred of Israel distracts attention from problems within Arab societies, and helps Arab leaders to avoid calls for greater democracy, human rights, equality for women, due process of law, an end to corruption, economic reform, freedom of speech and other much needed developments

•  Israeli policy is to seek to work with Palestinian and Arab leaders who renounce violence and recognise Israel , to build Palestinian statehood. Blind hatred of Israel hinders this process, rather than helping it, and therefore harms the legitimate rights of Palestinians

•  Israel is a world leader in many areas of healthcare, agriculture and the environment. It is also a melting pot for ethnic groups from Europe, the Middle East and Africa . If peace is achieved, Israel could serve as a cultural and scientific bridge between the West and the Muslim world for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the region

•  Soundbite: It is not Israel , but the demonisation of Israel , and its use as a scapegoat, which is a ‘root' of the region's problems. This demonisation is not the result of Israel 's actions, but the result of Arab political culture, increasingly endorsed by certain voices in Western Europe and the USA

Further Beyond Images resources: See Israel Accused Number 32. Also Beyond Images Briefings 20, 64, 145 and 173.