Sunday, July 21, 2013

England, English culture, and the Middle East

The British government and public have had an intimate part of the marking of the modern Middle East.  London was a controlling factor in the establishment of almost all of its current government structure (aside from Saudi Arabia, which did it the old-fashioned way, arranged marriages with all of the tribes).  Being so involved since World War I with such an irrational, uncivilized group of people has often caused the British to feel like Prof. Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion, without the happy ending but with more than one Liza. 

The basic problem is that fundamentally the Arabs, with subgroups based on religion, national status such as minority or majority, and national tendencies such as Egyptian and Libyan, simply do not behave like the modern English.  They squabble, threaten each other, fight, and kill. They do not see the virtue of a nice cup of tea and cooperation.  Neither did the Gaelic peoples of the British isles not so long ago, but who remembers that? 

The Jews, excuse me Israelis, are even worse.  As long as they were willing to be helpless victims and politely request help, they were sympathetic.  Once they stopped showing respect to their betters and began forgetting their manners (which they never had very much anyway), they were no better than their Arab cousins. 

British sympathy goes with the party showing the most passive state of misery.  Refugees, Jewish or Arab, in miserable camps waiting for a solution from above, especially the magnanimous British government, touch the heart.  Insolent locals taking matters in their own hands and conducting wars and terror are so lacking class.  Israel would have probably never been created if the local Arabs had not fought the British in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The British did not appreciate the bombing of the King David hotel either.

Whether the British prefer the Jews/Israelis or the Arabs is a question that has probably has been surveyed many times in the past.  Clearly though, the Arabs are much better at providing what the British so desire: good hospitality and proper respect. Among others, Lawrence of Arabia was truly impressed.  A guest at an Arab residence gets a comfortable chair, good food (no cucumber sandwiches), good coffee, and the feeling of being important.  An Israeli household can provide the good food and comfortable chair, but, well, arguing is an ancient Jewish tradition.  The Bible says that Moses even did it with God.  Israelis do not know how to discuss the weather for more than ten seconds, generally summarized by the sentence It is hot today.

The facts and history of the modern Middle East are apparently irrelevant.  In terms of sympathy, no matter how right or wrong either side may be, the issue seems to be “How British are you?”  Looking at the current mess here, this has turned out to be a rather flimsy basis of policy.  

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