Eye on the Middle East Mar/Apr 2003
Recent polls taken in a broad range of countries have revealed that many nations view the United States with increasing distaste. This situation is especially true in the Muslim world, where President George W. Bush and Israel are being blamed for the ills of the Palestinians and other Muslims around the globe. These accusations depict America as a four hundred-pound gorilla, oppressing every peace-loving and benevolent nation on the face of the earth.
The facts, of course, contradict such farcical charges. No nation on Earth is more benevolent, protective, generous, or helpful to those in need than the leaders and people of the United States. It is beyond dispute that many of our severest critics have been delivered from the clutches of tyrannical regimes through American intervention. France, for example-now vociferously opposing any military move against Iraq was liberated by Americans and their allies on at least two notable occasions. And, while we respect the sovereign decisions of independent states, the question as to where they would turn in the face of another threat to their security is answered before it is asked.
With Islamists, it’s quite another story. Their issue is not the might and majesty of the world’s greatest superpower; it is what that power and its people represent. The same is true with the existence of little Israel in the Middle East. And beyond the hateful, religious, fanatical rantings that emanate from their mosques, there is a much larger issue. It is democracy. It is the freedom to choose-the freedom to choose those who will lead your country; the freedom to decide how you will live your life; the freedom to determine how you will worship and conduct vital religious aspects of your life; the freedom to franchise women as full and equal citizens; the freedom to have a voice in social and political affairs without fear of intimidation or persecution; the freedom to decide how and who will entertain you and what your children will be exposed to; the freedom of expression in the media, devoid of government control; and the freedom to educate your children in environments free of political and religious brainwashing. Yes, in a very real sense, democracy is the issue.
And though all Arab and Muslim states are not radical Islamists conspiring to slaughter everyone who happens to disagree with them, it is patently clear that they share a common loathing of democracy. Its very existence is anathema to their system of religious practices, social life, and political prerogatives. To their way of thinking, devout Muslims cannot exist side by side with democratic people.
A few years ago, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that peace in the Middle East would be dictated largely by a basic change in the attitudes and thinking of grass roots Arabs and Muslims. He said the Internet and access to information about the freedoms people in Western democracies take for granted could spur a revolution in thinking among younger Arabs in Islamic countries. He is correct. And such a movement is one of the things oppressive leaders fear most. For what the great American experiment has demonstrated is that freedom is contagious. Once people taste it, their appetites can never be sated by a return to repression.
Thus the conflict in the Middle East can never be reduced to a fight over land alone. It is what the Jewish people represent that galls the mullahs in the mosques and the officials in governments installed and maintained by guns rather than by the will of free people. They fear that Israel’s very presence will pollute Muslim minds and alter the ideological landscape of the Middle East.
The Bible tells us that a supreme purpose for the Jewish presence on Earth is to be “a light of the nations” (Isa. 42:6). And though the fullness of these words has millennial and Messianic connotations, we are witnessing a harbinger of their significance in our lifetime. Unfortunately, many are still unwilling to see or appreciate that light.