We’ve heard it all before. All the problems in the Middle East are the faults of the West, the United States, and Israel. Western countries like Britain and France carved up the Middle East after the First World War and milked them for their resources. The United States sponsored coups against legitimate governments and supported wicked regimes to fight the Godless Communists (not to mention the Iraq War). And Israel deserves special censure for its deplorable treatment of the Palestinians, and its countless wars against her neighbours.
Unquestionably much of this is true. There is little doubt that the Western world and Israel have a lot to answer for their conduct towards the Middle East. But is it really the case that all the troubles of the Middle East can be conveniently blamed on outside influence? To suggest that the nations of the Middle East, with their incredible oil wealth, and considerable military power, have been consistently wronged and victimized is absurd.
Since the late 40s, and for some of them even earlier, the nations of the Middle East have been sovereign countries. Now of course there have been coups, and at least in Iraq, an overthrow of a sovereign country by a western occupying force, but overall the nations in the region have enjoyed freedom to do whatever they want. And what have these countries done for the last sixty years?
Have they built legitimate democracies? No. Have they in general emancipated women or oppressed minorities? No. Have they created welfare states? No. Have they built modern, and diverse economies? No.
Have they built huge standing armies to fight Israel and each other? Yes. Have they constructed massive security organizations to control their populaces? Yes. Have they built palaces and other absurd luxuries for their elites while their own people have starved? Yes.
None of this is to suggest that all the nations in the region are inherently wicked, corrupt, or inefficient. Some of the countries like Turkey, and the Gulf States are relatively progressive, and most are generally peaceful. And to be fair many of the problems infecting the region can be seen in Asia, Africa, and South America as well.
However the point remains that after sixty years of independence instead of spending oil money on building prosperous societies, the nations of the Middle East have squandered their resources on enriching decadent elites and futile wars against Israel, and each other.
While the western media seems hell-bent on showing how many Muslims have been killed by Coalition troops in Iraq, or Israelis in the occupied territories, it has conveniently missed the fact that during the last sixty years Muslims have killed more Muslims than the West or the Israeli have.
The worse war in the region by far, “The Iran-Iraq War” of 1980-88, saw more Muslims deaths then all the Arab-Israeli wars combined several times over. To this we can add the Yemen, Lebanon, and Jordanian Civil Wars, Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal, the sad conflict in Darfur, the barely known Egyptian-Libyan conflict, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and technically even the Iraq war itself. One could argue that the Iraqis and foreign insurgents have seemed more intent on killing each other than the Americans, if you factor in all the deaths from sectarian violence, terrorism, and criminals.
This does not even include the treatment of the Palestinians. While the countries of the region always go on, and on, and on, about the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians, history shows that the Arabs have treated them worse.
In the 1948-49 war when Israel was created Egypt and Jordan occupied the Gaza Strip, and West Bank, respectively. Incidentally these areas had a majority of Palestinian inhabitants and were supposed to form most of what was to be the Palestinian nation as deemed by the U.N. Did the Egyptians and Jordanians hand over power to the Palestinians and help them make stable and prosperous countries. No. Did they annex the territories and use them as springboards for terrorism against Israel. Yes. It should be remembered that whereas the countries in the region have spent much money funding Palestinian terror they have done little to alleviate the poor living conditions of the Palestinians themselves.
After the 6 Day war the Israelis conquered the Gaza Strip, and the West bank, and Egypt and Jordan washed their hands of responsibility. To this day the occupation and pillaging of the territories by Arab armies is barely mentioned in western media.
As for a body count, it is probable that Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, each country by themselves have all killed more Palestinians than the Israelis. Jordan killed more Palestinians during the Civil War in the 70s than the Israelis did during the intifadas. Syria killed countless Palestinians in refugee camps and during their occupation of Lebanon. And during the Lebanese civil war the Christian Phalangists butchered the Palestinians on many occasions, including the infamous slaughter at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Finally we should not forget about the Kurds. The barbaric counter-insurgency methods used the countries in the region to counter Kurdish independence movements make Israeli actions in the territories appear mild. The poison gas attack against the Kurdish town of Halabja by Saddam Hussein is perhaps the most vivid example.
It is disgusting, and beyond hypocrisy that the people and rulers of the region can be so indignant about Western and Israeli actions when they themselves have killed more Muslims, and more Palestinians, than they have. It is even more disgusting that the majority of people in the Western world do not even know these simple facts; being content on assuming the United States and Israel are to blame for everything.
That the people of the Middle East believe these lies is more forgiving; their media is under state control and they have been raised to hate Israel and the west. That the people of the Western world believe these lies despite having democracy and open media… well, that is deplorable.
A final point concerns how the people in the region feel they are portrayed in the media. Now it goes without saying that there are no lack of intolerant, or frankly just ignorant people in the west who do not know the first thing about Islam, Arab or Muslim values. It is certainly not an exaggeration for Muslims and Arabs to suggest they are often victims of discrimination.
However, on the other hand the way the West, and especially Jewish people are depicted in Arab media is less than flattering to say the least. Everyone should remember about that stupid cartoon made in Denmark that criticized the Prophet of Mohammed. In the aftermath of that idiotic publication the Arab Street went berserk and attacked embassies and threatened violence against the West. All of Western society was deemed culpable for a single cartoon drawn by some twit in Copenhagen!
While it seemingly unacceptable for the West to draw cartoons offensive to Islam, it is apparently o.k. for the Arab media to draw racist caricature of Jewish people with stereotypically hooked noses, as well as blatantly spreading hatred against Israel and the West. It is not unreasonable to suggest that such media had its origins in the Third Reich.
None of this is to condone bad policies set by the West or Israel. On the contrary they should own up and be held accountable for their actions. It is fair to say that in general Western and Israeli influence on the Middle East has been negative.
However, the same must be said about the nations in the Middle East. Only by owning up and learning from their mistakes can they put behind all the hate and rage that has done nothing but ill for their peoples.