A New History of the Arab World Gets the Story Right—Until It Comes to Jews and Christians

March 8 2018

First published in 2011, The Arabs: A History, by the Oxford Professor Eugene Rogan, has recently been issued in a revised and updated edition. Luma Simms finds it a useful book that admirably covers much ground in a single volume, but one that hews too closely to deeply flawed analyses that have become standard in academia. When it comes to the Middle East’s Jews and Christians, Rogan’s blind spots are particularly noticeable.

Rogan has unfortunately picked up some of the Arab attitude toward the Jews, although he does temper it. The Arab milieu—Christian and Muslim—is anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic. . . . Rogan is not anti-Semitic; but he does tend to be partial to the Muslim Arabs. As an Arab myself, I understand that he is trying to stay true to the Arab perspective, but his sympathies have blurred his objectivity. . . .

One thing stands out here as very peculiar: the author’s silence about what the Arabs did to the Jews after World War II. They killed them, confiscated their property and possessions, and drove them out of Arab lands. Aside from the one paragraph he gives to the pogrom in Iraq in 1941, there’s not much on what the Arab Muslims did to the Jews living in their midst throughout the region in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His being so tied to the Arab Muslim perspective leads him to minimize the virulent anti-Semitism in the Arab world to this day. . . .

Rogan himself consistently uses “occupier” when referring to Israel or Western nations—a noun he seldom uses for Ottoman or Arab conquerors, destroyers, or occupiers. . . . Arabs have maintained for years that the problems of their region would go away if they could get rid of the Jews, and Rogan does little to dispel that myth. The statistics show that the Arab lands have been essentially [rendered judenrein], yet the Arab world proceeds in chaos still. . . .

As for Middle Eastern Christians, Simms highlights Rogan’s highly apologetic treatment of devshirme, the Ottoman practice of kidnapping Christian children, forcibly converting them to Islam, and conscripting them into military service:

Rogan excuses [such practices] as a product of the times. . . . The Arabs maintains this double standard throughout. What is done to Jews and Christians is justified away, but the slightest injury to Muslims—real or imagined—is brought to the fore.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arab anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Middle East, Middle East Christianity

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy