Prof. Ian Lustick
Political Science Department
University of Pennsylvania
will be speaking on
"Leaving the Middle East: Israel and 'HaBotz HaMizrach-Tichoni'"
The "Security Barrier" is emblematic of Israel's "unilateralism" in its relations with the Arab world. It is perhaps more important for cutting Israel out of the Middle East as it is for preventing Arab Middle Easterners from coming in. It matches trends in Israel to develop legal and economic alternatives chuts l'aretz, including temporary or permanent emigration, the securing of European passports, and decisions to invest savings outside the country. By imagining Israel as fundamentally separate from a Middle Eastern country, and by spending much of their time in Europe or America, many Israelis hope to exclude, not only the Palestinians, but the entire Muslim Middle East, from the precincts of the Jewish polity and from their own lives. Led to believe in the "absence of a partner," Israelis have come to see the Middle East as a whole the way they came to see Lebanon in the 1980s. Instead of "haBotz haLevanoni" (the Lebanese mud) Israelis now often experience the entire region that way--as "haBotz haMizrach-Tichoni" (the Middle Eastern mud [muck that should be]). This trend is reflected across a range of public policies and postures as a combination of unilateralism, escapism, confusion about the future, and the non-rational use of force. On a military/political level this overall tendency represents an historic surrender of Israel's "Iron Wall" policy, according to which force would be used to educate hostile Arabs into accepting the immovability of Jews from the land and the indestructibility of the Zionist project. Once educated in this way Arabs would moderate their demands, permitting peace based on a mutually satisfying. Absent a commitment to some sort of education of Arab Muslims to the acceptability of the Jewish state in their midst, Israelis must confront the stark difficulties of surviving as a European fragment in the third world without having annihilated the aboriginal population.