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Sociologist Philip Carl Salzman has written a compelling work about tribalism titled Culture and Conflict in the Middle East. Dr. Salzman notes that:
“In fact, states and state institutions have existed in the Middle East for at least four thousand years. There have been governments, police, courts, tax collectors, armies, and so on, far back into the distant past of the Middle East. But they were never really there to serve people generally. The state institutions were put into place to serve the people controlling them. Any moment of disinterested leadership or wise attention to the needs of the populace were followed by centuries of self-serving…thuggery. The populace of these states was not made of citizens, but subjects….For their own security and comfort, the populace was left on its own to look after its own interests.”
And that’s where one’s family, clan, tribe, ethnicity and religion take over. If you are an Arab man in need of employment, your family/tribe will arrange it for you. What we call “nepotism” is viewed as an essential custom and way of life. If you are starving, your family/tribe is supposed to feed you. If you need a husband, that, too, is arranged for you, not by the government but by your family/tribe.
There are other reasons that Dr. Kedar’s proposal ought to be considered seriously.
The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is unlikely to last. In March, 2007, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia negotiated a peace deal between Fatah and Hamas, but that peace was followed only three months later by a civil war in Gaza. In addition, most Gazans have never even been to the West Bank.
Ironically, the same people who criticized President Bush for cramming Western-style democracy down the throats of the Iraqis and Afghans are now so often the very people who support cramming Western-style democracy down the throats of the Palestinians.
Dr. Kedar’s proposal is useful for another very important reason. Leaving aside the obvious and maddening fact that Jordan was supposed to be the Palestinian state—a face rarely admitted—Israel absolutely cannot survive if “Palestinian” Arabs enjoy “territorial contiguity.” Prime Minister also said as much. Allow me to give him the final words:
“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible….A peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality.”
And then Netanyahu stated what is chillingly obvious:
“We don’t have a lot of margin for error.”
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