We’ve all seen outrageous reports about Israel from Arab sources. Reading the Arab press, you might be forgiven for assuming that when Israel isn’t sending Mossad sharks into Arab waters, it’s busy plotting ways to sow disease in Arab society.
But what happens when an Arab writer defends Israel, or suggests that the Arab world may have something to learn from the Jewish state? Well, Lee Habeeb, a writer of Lebanese origin, found out the hard way.
First came the letters to the editor, then the personal insults. It was as if I’d broken a secret code I didn’t know existed. Some secret blood oath, which goes something like this: Arabs don’t speak unkindly of Arabs in public, or kindly about Israel.
After pondering the backlash he experienced and looking at the effect this Arab groupthink has on the wider culture, Habeeb came to some very important conclusions.
It is all about Arab self-doubt. It is all tied to a profound lack of cultural self-confidence, and a deep-seated fear that maybe, just maybe, Arabs won’t be very good at the self-governance thing. That Arab nations won’t be capable of building democratic cultures that engender the flourishing of human freedom, and that these nations won’t have the ability to tap the God-given talents of their people the way Americans and Israelis do.
That maybe, just maybe, the Arab world will never measure up to America or Israel.
No wonder the Arab world is happy enough to vilify Israel at every turn. It’s much easier to scapegoat a regional minority than to deal, head on, with one’s own inadequacy.