More than a month has passed since President Trump rolled out his National Security Strategy and it continues to elicit condemnation from progressives, globalists, and advocates of Barack Obama’s failed foreign policy.
As it pertains to the Mideast, Trump’s strategy has been assailed by the left for repudiating the debunked theory of “linkage,” which holds that Israel is the source of destabilizing tension throughout the region. The President has also come under fire for rejecting the two-state orthodoxy of Oslo, identifying Palestinian rejectionism as the real barrier to peace, acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital, and threatening sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
Considering the region’s geopolitical history, however, Trump’s strategy realignment is refreshing – especially in its rejection of certain foreign policy doctrines that unfairly single out Israel and draw surreptitious inspiration from classical anti-Semitic themes and stereotypes.
It has become political dogma that the Israel-Palestinian situation precludes regional peace and prosperity, though this view is unsupported by fact or history. The reality is that ethnic and religious conflict marred the region long before Israel’s modern rebirth in 1948 and liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967. There is absolutely no link between Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Islamic radicalism that has toppled governments across the region or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, sponsorship of terrorism, and proxy wars in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Ancestral violence between Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs, Persians, Turks and Kurds; the spread of Wahhabi extremism; and the Yazidi genocide are no more responses to Palestinian statelessness than are the jihadist threat spreading across Europe, the epidemic of terrorism plaguing the West, or the Islamic State’s attempt to establish a caliphate in Iraq.
The most pressing conflicts in the Mideast today are rooted in the tribalism, ethnic friction, and religious fundamentalism that have defined the region from time immemorial – problems that were exacerbated by the creation of modern Arab states after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. To argue otherwise is to ignore geopolitical reality, and to blame Israel is to deny Jewish history and national character.
The face of today’s Arab Mideast was shaped by Europeans, all with regional colonial pasts, who were awarded mandates over former Ottoman territory after World War I. The modern states of Syria, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon are artificial constructs that attempted to enforce contrived national identities on disparate religious, ethnic, and tribal groups who had been clashing for generations. Guided by their own colonial instincts and post-enlightenment concept of nationalism, the European mandatory powers divided the vanquished empire into nations incorporating discordant subpopulations with no common national identity or cultural homogeny.
A case in point is Iraq, which is composed of multiple ethnic and religious communities, including Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites – all with distinctive clan allegiances and tribal loyalties. They speak different dialects, observe diverse religious traditions, and support disparate political factions. Created in 1920 under a League of Nations Mandate administered by the British, Iraq was given to King Faisal I after his ouster from the French-controlled Syria-Lebanon Mandate, and Sunni Muslims were installed as the ruling elite to the detriment of Shiites and non-Muslim religious minorities like Christians, Zoroastrians, and Bahá'ís. The country achieved full independence in 1932, and the monarchy was deposed in 1941, subsequently reinstated, and finally overthrown in a Baathist coup in 1958.
Throughout its history, Iraq was held together by authoritarian rule, not common political values or cultural similitude. Given the ethno-religious heterogeneity of its population, the country would likely have fractured without some form of autocratic central authority. And in the absence of egalitarian ideals or basic freedoms of speech, press and assembly, attempts to establish western-style democracy after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein were doomed to failure. A more natural consequence would have been to divide the country into its component parts and create autonomous regions along entrenched ethnic and religious lines. Forcing Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs and Kurds to continue living under one flag seems only to reinforce tensions that have historically produced conflict and warfare.
Iraq is a microcosm of the wider Mideast, where diverse ethnic groups (e.g., Arabs, Copts, Kurds, Berbers, Turks and Persians) and faith communities (Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Zoroastrians, etc.) are in perpetual conflict. With a lack of foresight, the boundaries of the modern Arab states were drawn to include traditional ethnic and religious rivals. The European powers clearly did not understand the divisions within Mideast society when they arbitrarily made countrymen out of longstanding enemies.
Despite revisionist claims that the Palestinians represent a core population indigenous to Israel, their history mirrors the cultural polymorphism of the greater Arab-Muslim world. There is no evidence of an ancient Palestinian presence in the land of Israel as measured by artifacts, language, or literature; but there is demographic proof that much of today’s Palestinian population is descended from migrants who arrived from other parts of the Arab-Muslim world during the late Ottoman period and well into the twentieth century. Palestinian Arabs are not modern-day Canaanites or Phoenicians, and their identity is not intertwined with the land as is Jewish national character. Their statelessness has been maintained as a propaganda tool against Israel and is unrelated to any other conflicts in the region.
Most regional strife today arises from religious and cultural enmities that existed long before the Palestinian narrative was manufactured in the twentieth century. If Palestinians were to declare a state on Jewish soil today or if they were to be repatriated elsewhere, Muslims would still be attacking Copts in Egypt, ISIS would still be massacring “infidels” in Iraq and elsewhere, Saudis would still be exporting Wahhabism worldwide, Islamists would still be waging jihad against the West, and Iran would still pose an apocalyptic nuclear threat. These situations were not caused by Israel and will not be ameliorated by giving ancient Jewish lands to Palestinians.
These truths, however, have not discouraged western progressives from endorsing the fiction that Palestinian appeasement will somehow stabilize a region that has never known stability. Or from insisting that Israel cede ancestral territory, sanctify a myth that denies her history, and acquiesce to a further division of the Jewish homeland not contemplated by the San Remo Convention or the original Mandate for Palestine.
The Arab population in Ottoman/Mandate territories increased through immigration from the late 1800s onward. Although many Jews also migrated in during this period, they found a native Jewish community that had lived continuously in Jerusalem, the holy cities, and elsewhere throughout the land, including the town of Peqi’in, for thousands of years – long before the arrival of Muslim invaders after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Jewish population may have fluctuated over the years, but it was never uprooted; and Jerusalem never had an Arab majority.
In announcing the embassy move to Jerusalem, President Trump gave credence to this history and recognized Israel’s sovereign right to determine her own capital. He also signaled that US policy would no longer be dictated by false narratives denying the Jews’ connection to their homeland. In so doing, he broke with his predecessors in office, whose endorsement of contrary Palestinian claims served only to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were naive to think a two-state solution could be workable despite the Palestinians’ oft-stated goals of exterminating Israel and her people (and refusal to amend their charter calling for Israel’s destruction). Still, Clinton and Bush never expressed personal disdain for the Jewish State. In contrast, Barack Obama disrespected Israel, sought to appease Islamists, and validated the theory of linkage, which became a mantra for the progressives, BDS advocates, and radical regimes who were enabled by his policies.
Given the absence of evidence suggesting Israel has any impact on regional tensions, it becomes easy to see the bigoted underpinnings of the linkage theory. Claiming Israel is responsible for extraterritorial conflicts dating back 1,500 years or more is the same as accusing Jews of manipulating the global economy, controlling governments, or seeking world domination. Just as classical conspiracy theories accuse Jews of exercising power beyond their numbers, so too the linkage doctrine blames Israel for situations well beyond her influence and control.
When analyzed critically, the theory of linkage resembles a modern reworking of the ancient canard of undue Jewish influence. Whereas Clinton and Bush did not see through the theory’s subterfuge, Obama affirmatively indulged its worst impulses. In contrast, Trump has rejected it altogether and signaled that US foreign policy will no longer be governed by revisionist fiction. And this may augur well for America’s regional interests and Israel’s continuity as a Jewish state.