These are precarious times for the Middle East. As revolution sweeps across the Arab world, op-ed columns are replete with suggestions of historical parallels. To be sure, we have seen this kind of thing before. But is this the Middle East’s 1989? Or are we witnessing a repeat of 1979?
Whichever it is, the episode unfolding before us ought to challenge two fundamental assumptions of orthodox thinking. Firstly, that liberty is a western concept with no popular appeal to our Arab cousins. Secondly, that the State of Israel is central to all the Middle East’s many troubles.
In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush declared that “the liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity”. Eight years later, as demonstrators gather in the streets of Cairo, Damascus, Tunis, Amman and elsewhere, we are only now waking up to the reality that the desire for freedom is universal. And where there is a will, there is a way. Those who say that Arabs are incapable of democracy are merely the latest in a long line of cynics whom history has confounded. In the 1980s it was said that democracy was beyond the comprehension of Eastern Europeans. The same doubts were expressed about Latin Americans, and about the Japanese before them. The only problem is that this time the naysayers have been the formulators of our foreign policy, and their prophecy might now be self-fulfilling.
Instead of supporting pro-democracy and civil society groups in the Middle East as we should have done, we have for decades bought into the fallacy peddled by despots of all stripes that Israel is the primary obstacle to peace and liberty in the region. The al-Assad dynasty, for example, was allowed to maintain emergency rule in Syria for nearly 50 years as a precaution against Zionism – much to the misfortune of 22 million Syrians. We now know that the dictators’ chorus is not harmonious with the people, who seem far more concerned with their own emancipation than that of the Palestinians.
When one reflects on the level of support afforded to dissidents in the Soviet bloc in contrast to the silence over tyranny in the Middle East, we begin to see why there is cause to be pessimistic about the outcome of the Arab Spring. It is not yet 1989. A democratic future seems distant. Sadly, the resemblance of recent events to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 is considerably more striking.
That the West backed Mubarak just as we backed the Iranian Shah right up until the moment of upheaval, and that we are allowing the small but highly organised Muslim Brotherhood to hijack the revolution just as we allowed the Ayatollahs before them shows that we have not learned from the lessons of history. Even as recently as 2007 the world watched as the Brotherhood’s faction in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, rose to victory in elections, proceeded to murder its opposition, and then embarked on its reign of terror. And now it seems we are prepared to let it happen all over again in Egypt and quite possibly elsewhere too.
It is precisely because of the failure of our foreign policy to elevate the voices of democratic opposition above those of their oppressors that we are compelled to stand in solidarity with Israel – the Middle East’s only democracy. As it becomes increasingly likely that nominally pro-Western dictators will be replaced by equally repressive leaders of a more populist flavour, the probability of the pragmatic ‘cold peace’ which has hitherto characterised Arab-Israeli relations degenerating into antagonism and rising tensions is in ascendance.
Why is Israel’s security any of our concern? To put it crudely, Israel does our dirty work for us. Long before 9/11, Israel has been at the forefront of the fight against those who would annihilate us. It is only thanks to Israel, whose military destroyed the Baghdad nuclear reactor in 1981, that Saddam Hussein was never able to develop weapons of mass destruction. And to this day it is Israel which has repeatedly prevented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from obtaining the nuclear weapons which it is his stated intention to use. Time and again, Israel has proved itself to be the West’s first line of defence. And it is in our best interests to keep it that way.
There are two good reasons why UKIP in particular must champion the Zionist cause: one ideological, the other strategic.
Just as for hundreds of years the scattered Jewish people longed for “next year in Jerusalem”, so too do we live in the hope that next year will be the year we finally extricate ourselves from this European Union. Just as Israelis fought hard for their self-governing democracy, so too do we fight to restore ours. The operative word in our name is “Independence”; the high-minded ideal that we can – and should – live in a world of robust nation-states who live in peace and cooperate with their neighbours. This is Israel’s most profound aspiration. We are the party of national self-determination, and it is our moral duty to support those who are also locked in an existential struggle.
Politically, we could stand to gain from a more vocal denunciation of the EU’s willingness to accommodate terrorists as part of its grand plan to unseat the United States as the arbiter of world affairs. Now that Fatah and Hamas have signed a reconciliation deal, there are indications that the European Union (which already refuses to blacklist genocidal terror group Hezbollah) will try to jump the gun by recognising the new Palestinian government and pressuring Israel to engage with its would-be destroyers. Since Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have all turned their backs on the Jewish State, it is time for UKIP to step up and declare its unconditional support. We should also be exposing the obvious hypocrisy of fighting expensive, bloody wars against terror abroad while simultaneously appeasing the international terrorist network of which Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood form part.
UKIP voters have always regarded us as the party of common sense – straight talking, no nonsense. At a time when British foreign policy is under attack by European integration and mired in self-loathing and moral relativism, it is up to UKIP to take the lead in speaking truth to power. We are all Israelis now.