The Arab and Iranian complaint that they are threatened and victimized by the Zionists is fascinatingly twisted. In fact, they do themselves considerable damage through their own anti-Semitism. Two recent examples come to mind.
United States taxpayers paid for the liberation of Iraq, and are footing the bill to rebuild the country. Anyone from a rather large list of eligible countries can bid on the billion-dollar U.S.-funded rebuilding contracts. But while the list is large, it is not comprehensive. Nations that hindered our efforts to liberate Iraq failed to make the cut. France and Germany, for example, are conspicuously ineligible.
But there is a more newsworthy, yet less-noticed story about the eligibility list: Israel is not on it. Why?
The two major purposes of our foray into Iraq were to fight terrorism and to make Iraq a democracy. In the volatile and strategically important Middle East, Israel is the most democratic nation. One would think that if Iraq is to become a stable, liberal democracy, we should foster a good relationship between it and Israel, from which it could learn so much about free expression, multiparty politics, minority rights, an independent judiciary, religious freedom and all the other ingredients of a healthy, free society.
Israel's exclusion becomes particularly galling in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia -- the nation most responsible for Sept. 11, Al Qaeda, Hamas and Moslem Brotherhood terrorism -- is allowed to bid on Iraq reconstruction contracts. We ousted Saddam, in part, because he was getting cozy with Bin Laden. Now that we ousted him, the Binladen Group, a huge Saudi Arabian engineering concern, can bid on a taxpayer-funded contract to rebuild Iraq, but an Itzik of Tel Aviv cannot -- even though Itzik of Tel Aviv is more likely to bring humane values (as well as Western building standards) to a Baghdad construction site than the Binladen Group.
President Bush is considered by many a friend of the Jewish State, so the fact that he has stiffed Israel requires explanation. The likeliest reason is simply that he believes the Arabs, including Iraqis, would object. Substituting a short-sighted pragmatism for principle, Bush lets the most unreasonable voices in the Middle East dominate, to the detriment of Iraq. Congress should look into this.
The second example of anti-Semitism becoming a self-inflicted wound comes from the terrible earthquake in Bam, Iran. The losses in life and property are virtually beyond imagination. Iran, overwhelmed, has welcomed aid from the four corners of the earth, including from the United States, without reservation. Oops, one reservation: help from the "Zionist entity" was rejected.
Israel is the most technologically advanced country in the Middle East, and the most prepared to deal with large-scale disaster (let's not discuss why). There is no possible doubt that Israel's participation in the rescue efforts would have saved lives.
The government of Iran preferred that its citizens die, rather than accept the hand of the Jewish State stretched out in compassion. In view of the fact that Israel has never done any harm to Iran, this is insane.
Peace will come to the Middle East if, and only if, the Arabs and Muslims end their pathological hatred of Israel. Everything else is a side issue. The United States must use its newly enhanced stature in the region to insist on an Arab/Muslim change of heart, and help it along.
On Sun., Jan. 25, at 3 p.m., DFI-LA will sponsor a program titled, "Iranian Reformers and Israel." For more information, call (310) 285-8542.
Joe Ribakoff is a member and Paul Kujawsky is the president of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles. The views expressed are theirs and do not necessarily represent the views of DFI-L.A.