It seems increasingly clear that the recent wave of Arab revolts has helped the already ingrained conspiracy theories to become more elaborate, absurd and frankly ridiculous. In one of the ironic twists, it appears that no one is immune from the accusation of Zionism.” Within the Arab world, it becomes an exotic alternative to “treason”.
So apparently, Gaddafi is a Zionist; did he not send a delegation to Israel recently to plot his own survival? , There are many examples of graffiti in Benghazi showing Gaddafi with the Star of David. The Libyan rebels and their LNC have had their fair share of these accusations too, after all the “Zionist” Bernard Henri Levi has supported them and brought in NATO to protect them.
Assad also is an alleged Zionist; he kept the Golan front quiet for years and he hinted (through his cousin Rami Maklouf) that the stability of Israel is linked to his regime’s survival. The same regime, which claims on a daily basis that there is a Zionist plot against Syria with many Zionist infiltrators attacking innocent Syrians everywhere from Deraa to Deir el Zour.
According to many, the king of all Arab Zionists is certainly Mubarak. For 30 years, he maintained a close relation with the “Zionist entity” and plotted against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. As a reward, Israel has sent their agent, the 27 years old “ IIen Grapel “ to Tahrir Square in Cairo to stir up a revolution against him. They were not even satisfied by his removal from power; their main aim is to destabilize Egypt who had peace treaty with them by sending more agents into Tahrir in order to orchestrate an opposition movement against the ruling military council!
In Lebanon, who killed Hariri? Search nowhere; apparently, the Zionists did it. Allegedly, Israel had penetrated the Lebanese cellphone system to coordinate his assassination.
The only possible conclusion from this absurd logic is, “ All Arab leaders are probably Zionist traitors and all their opponents are probably Zionist traitors too.” Marvelous!! This is not even funny.
Nor is this by any means a new phenomenon. Sadly it has been an integral part of the Arab daily political scene for a long time. Perhaps the first one to win the title was Sadat; he probably sealed his fate following his famous kiss to Golda Meir. It was distressing enough for some to see him pursue peace with Israel, but to kiss Golda was by far a crime that would never deserve to be forgiven (at least in their mind).
The Oslo accord was another turning point; it divided the Palestinians into two camps, a pro peace one who “foolishly fell” for the Zionist plot and a resistance camp that maintained their rejection of the “ Zionist entity “ and will keep fighting forever.
In fact, one of the few things the far right and the far left in the Arab world agree on is their rejection of the peace process with Israel. Both camps have done their best to discredit their opponents and label them as western imperialist Zionist traitors.
The explanation of this phenomenon is by no mean easy. It is emblematic of the whole Arab psyche and their perception of themselves and the outside world.
Roger Cohen has addressed the issue in his article in New York Times, (December 2010): “What we are dealing with here is the paltry harvest of captive minds. Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world”.
His statement is certainly true, however, if we want to dig deeper we can come up with some key contributing factors, which helped this phenomena to grow.
As a basic rule, Arabic media must avoid religion, sex and the current leader to be safe from censorship. Outside these areas, they are allowed to go wild with no limitation and no code of conduct. The Zionist plot and the Arab hero who fight it is an easy successful formula for a feel good factor. You can guarantee one soap opera per season about a Zionist plot, and off course it usually breaches the fine line between Jewish and Israeli. The bottom-line message is that, they are all evil and they are continuously plotting against Arabs.
Second: Official History books:
The main aim of all official history books is to praise the current leader and discredit his predecessor. Modern history was usually addressed to fit the political outlook of the regime with a clear tendency to blame foreign plots rather than drew some balanced conclusions. In fact, both Arab and Israeli history books are biased against each other.
Third: Totalitarian regimes
There is no doubt that the first two factors stem from years of oppression and totalitarian rule. (One-man vision, one-man theory and one-man analogy). Arab leaders infantilize their people in order to rule them by creating a sense of victimization and helplessness, which were employed as a useful distraction tools to divert attention from the core problem “ Tyranny”. Accusation of treason and Zionism is easy way to discredit and oppress any opposition. It has worked time and time again; any western link will automatically put a political opponent under scrutiny.
Ironically, the longer a leader’s stay in power, the more his inconsistency becomes apparent. The regime’s deals and link with western power become more exposed; people start to spot the hypocrisy. No wonder, some may label the likes of Gaddafi and Assad as traitors.
Fourth: Loose definitions.
The term Zionist becomes an umbrella to cover a wide variety of descriptions; western, liberal, pro- peace, etc.
They are usually four categories for these allegations:
Category A: an Arab with liberal western values, who consider the USA and Europe as useful allies. The accusation of Zionism may not be overt though hints and gestures may be deployed.
Category B: an Arab with western affiliation who dare to criticize the resistance movements (Hamas, Hezballah) or possibly questions their plans or strategies. This is a red line, once crossed, a barrage of threats, abuse may follow, and certainly accusation of Zionism would be loud and clear.
Category C: an Arab who develops links with Israel either politically or economically.
Category D: an Arab who accepts Israel right to exist.
Many may argue that Category C and D deserve the accusation and they are indeed traitors (this is a topic for another post), however, to extend the accusation to the first two categories is not just absurd but also reflects a deeply troubling unidirectional vision which is incapable of considering any different point of view.
Fifth: Invasion, occupation, conquerors.
It is easy to forget that Arabs were colonial power too. For example, Arabs hadve occupied Crete, Malta, Sicily and indeed Spain. Yes, they created a thriving multicultural society and were tolerant to non-Muslims. However, it was at the end of the day an occupation. However, somehow in the Arab psyche, they were benign conquerors and the others were oppressive occupiers and nobody dares to challenge that concept at all. It is certainly true that Arabs usually had a code of conduct far more advanced than their peers, and their actions should be put within the historical context; nonetheless, they were occupiers who fought those who resisted them. The sooner they admit it, the better the prospect of recovery from for this sense of being victims will be. They need to understand that history comes in cycles with good eras and bad ones.
Throughout history, plots and treason have existed, and Israel is no exception. Their secret agents “ Mossad “ had a long record of assassinations targeted against Israel’s opponents. However, it seems that their Arab neighbours want to give them credit for literally every event in the political arena far more than what they deserve. This silly generosity needs to stop soon, enough is enough.
Many thought the Arab spring might put an end to this pathological problem; it was great to watch the January 25th revolution in Egypt without seeing any sign against Israel or America in the demonstrations. Finally, Egyptians were addressing their local issues without involving any outsiders.
The only way forward is for us Arabs to have the self-confidence to accept some measure of responsibility of our own mistakes. After all, to seek the truth is surely to affirm our finest values and not in any way to betray them. We also need to build a pluralistic society where all political parties are accepted, including those pro- peace with Israel. You may despise them, but you should let them express their point of view. Definitions need to be accurate, only those who have illegal contacts should be labeled as traitors.
Sadly, old habits die-hard, plots and conspiracy theories have already started to creep in again after only a few months, it will take many years of free open society and pluralism to wipe it out.
I decided to show the Roger Cohen article to someone who continuously use the term “Zionist plot”. His reply was “ A classic piece from a Zionist”.
I know nothing about Roger Cohen background or his political affiliation but I am sure that his article has nothing to do with either of them.
Many thanks to Abu Hatem for the New York Times article