Rubin: Flaws in Arab political ideologies fuel tensions


Barry Rubin, a professor at the Israel’s Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC), visited Laurier’s Waterloo campus last week for a speaking engagement organized by the independent advocacy group Israel on Campus (IOC). During his hour-long lecture, Rubin presented a stark portrait of Arab-Israeli political conflict and focused on what he believes are the many obstacles in the way of Middle Eastern peace and stability.

As director of the IDC’s Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) centre and a fellow at their International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Rubin has authored several books on the subject of Middle Eastern policy and political history. In addition, he has written for publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Globe and Mail.

Rubin’s explanation of Israeli-Arab tensions focused largely on the inherent flaws in Arab political ideologies, which have emerged over the past 50 years.

Rubin linked the core causes of political tension in the Middle East to the dueling doctrines of Pan-Arab Nationalism and revolutionary Islamism. Pan Arab Nationalism emerged in the early 1950s as a response to the core question of Middle Eastern history – as phrased by Rubin – “Why are we behind?”

The answer was, as Rubin explained, to “expel Western influence, destroy Israel and to create mobilization states … dictatorships which promoted [Arab] unity.” It is what Rubin termed a failed doctrine, citing economic indicators which place most Arab states below much of the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

The failure of Pan-Arab Nationalism has seen the rapid rise of radical, revolutionary Islamism, which Rubin implied is a logical extension of the anti-Western, anti-Israel principles underlying nationalist ideology.

“For 50 years you’ve been beating your head against a stone wall. The liberal reformists say stop beating your head against a stone wall, try something different. The Islamists say you haven’t been beating your head against a stone wall hard enough. In other words, it’s not that your goals and perceptions are wrong, it’s that you haven’t gone far enough.”

According to Rubin, both doctrines require that Israel remains positioned as an oppositional force. This is because he believes that hope for peace through concessions to Islamist organizations such as Hamas are futile.

“There is not going to be any quick and clear resolution to the Arab-Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli conflict….The prospects for getting a signed agreement which will end the conflict are zero,” Rubin stated bluntly. “Hamas’s declared aim is genocide of Jews in Israel.”

Expanding on the role of Hamas, Rubin alluded to Western protests against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. “[Hamas] thinks they’re winning over Western public opinion. They look at what’s going on at Canadian campuses and elsewhere and they think everyone is swinging to our side … so why should we make compromises or concessions?” Rubin did not make further comments on allegations of Israeli human rights abuse.

Daniel Stober, an organizing member of Israel on Campus, echoed similar views concerning combating anti-Israeli sentiment on university grounds. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s important to present a balanced view. IOC’s greater goal is to educate the pubic about Israel and to engage in respectful debates and dialogue.”

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