Op-Ed

Robert Olson: Conflicting narratives fuel Mideast attacks

Robert Olson of Lexington is a Middle East analyst and author of many books on
 the region.
Robert Olson of Lexington is a Middle East analyst and author of many books on the region.

The unrest and rioting by Palestinians during the past eight months in the West Bank, Israel and Jerusalem seems unlikely to resolve Palestinians,' Arabs' and Muslims' grievances against Israel.

The main reason is that there have always been two different narratives.

One is an anti-Semitic, Holocaust, survival narrative that culminated in the creation of Israel in 1948 and then in the success of the Jewish state's conquest of the West Bank and its continuing absorption.

The Palestinian narrative is one of victimization, first by the Zionist movement, then British imperialism culminating in the creation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent expulsion of the bulk of the Palestinian population.

The two narratives also have differing interpretations of the geopolitics in which they are embedded. Jews cleave to western, European, American versions of history and the Palestinians to Muslim, non-western views of history and civilization.

Given the historical circumstances in the late 19th and 20th centuries, the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim narrative had little chance of challenging the West's narrative.

The historical dilemma of the Palestinians was aptly and tragically stated by the right-wing Jewish leader Vladimir Jabotinsky: "The tragedy is that there is a clash here between two truths; but the justice of our cause is greater."

This narrative is unlikely to change. The main reason is the inability of the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to change the dynamics of the conflict in any significant way. The latest chapter of this narrative is their failure to respond in any adequate fashion to their wars with Israel during the past decade.

Part of this failure is the inability to create states that meet even the minimum requirements for decent, inclusive and participative government. The most egregious examples are the collapses of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

While there is U.S. and European political, scientific and technological support for Israel, Palestinians — in spite of the wealth accumulated by Gulf Arab states the last 50 years — have achieved little.

The expansion of Israel into the West Bank and its annexation is a foregone conclusion. What remains of the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and in Israel must be managed either by physical containment, economic strangulation, property confiscation or simply expulsion. There is, however, the possibility that the economic prosperity Israel enjoys might enable it to include sufficient numbers of Palestinians.

Whatever methods of management Israel decides upon, it is clear that it will have the support of the U.S. Indeed, the U.S. political system could not function efficaciously without the strong support of neo-conservative, pro-Israel lobbing groups. Israel also has strong support of U.S. technological, industrial, computer and aerospace companies. These relationships are now to the point that the two countries' defense industries are almost inextricably intertwined.

The latest example is the announcement by Lockheed Martin, the giant aircraft industrial conglomerate, that Israel's aerospace industry will produce 44 wings for Lockheed's recently launched F-35 fighter. The deal is part of Lockheed's pledged $5 billion work, 30 percent of Israel's annual defense budget. The F-35 will be the prime strike fighter for the next 30 years for the U.S. and Israel.

Lockheed spokespersons estimate that each F-35 will cost $115 million but anticipate the cost could be reduced to $85 million by 2019. Lockheed officials think that scores of countries will purchase the F-35. If this is the case, Israel's aerospace industries will be in worldwide demand to service and repair the aircraft.

The ever-growing technological and defense relationship were emphasized at the Nov. 6 Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Gala in Beverly Hills; the nonprofit received $33 million in donations. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, engaged heavily in industrial, electronics, computer and cyber warfare technology with Israeli companies, donated $9 million.

"This event is always one of the most inspiring and emotional evenings of the year," said Barbra Streisand, one of the attendees.

It is unlikely that Palestinians or Arabs will be able to compete with this narrative.

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