Saturday, June 2, 2007

Middle East is really quite irrelevant (unless you happen to be a Middle Easterner):

The Israel-Palestine conflict - Who cares? We shouldn't
I'm sure that like me you've got strong views on the rights and wrongs of the "Soccer War" of 1969. Honduras's treatment of El Salvador and its noble people is an enduring international shame; the Peace Treaty of 1980 was a sham which robbed the victimised Salvadoreans of their land. I am still very diligent in boycotting Honduran produce; I will never, despite numerous invitations, attend a lecture given by a Honduran academic; naturally, I have disinvested my large stake in the Honduran economy. My belief in the righteousness of El Salvador's cause knows no bounds.
You would think me mad, a stranger to that region, if I held such strong views about a tiny sliver of land in Central America. But it's no madder than Brits who get overexcited about a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East and join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organise boycotts of Israeli universities and demand that British companies not do business in Israel. I've never understood why the Israel-Palestine conflict gets so much coverage (many more people die in African border wars but they only make the news-in-brief columns) or why Western statesmen think that they should get involved in pointless summiteering there.
Do we have any strategic interests there? Not really. Maybe it's the frontline in a clash of civilisations, and we need to bolster Israel against the forces of Islamofascism? Well, given that Osama bin Laden seems to be as upset that Spain pushed out the Moors as any perceived injustice against the Palestinians, I'm not sure that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine will stop al-Qaeda lunatics trying to blow us up. Sure, if I had to choose, I would rather be an Arab living in Israel than in any of the neighbouring Arab kleptocracies and failed states, but still I don't feel like I have a dog in that fight.
So am I mistaken? Am I missing something fundamental? Edward Luttwak in a brilliant article for Prospect reassures me that the Middle East is really quite irrelevant..

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