Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, December 8, 1982
LONDONA magazine article by a young Israeli academic advocating a breakup of the Arab world into small ethnic states is causing consternation in some Arab capitals.
The article, titled "A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s," was published last Februrary in Hebrew in a journal called Kivunim, or Directions, which is sponsored by the World Zionist Organization. Its author is a 32-year old teaching assistant at Hebrew University named Oded Yinon.
Mr. Yinon isn't a big fish in Israel, and his article hardly caused a ripple there. But it is making big waves in the Arab world, thanks to a widely circulated translation by a pro-Palestinian Israeli professor named Israel Shahak.
The Arabs, who are calling the article "a Zionist plan for the Middle East," are in an uproar. The Palestine Liberation Organization has discussed the article in one of its research journals and a prestigious Egyptian magazine has printed a full Arabic translation.
In Jordan, Crown Prince Hassan mentioned Mr. Yinon's article in a recent interview and provided an English translation to this reporter. Prince Hassan contends that the article illustrates the desire of Israel's leadership for "Balkanization" of the Arab world.
"This is what is so worrying really, is . . . this Balkan idea," the crown prince said. He called Mr. Yinon's article "a recipe for ethnic and sectarian breakup."
The article, to be sure, is provocative. The hawkish Mr. Yinon, in a kind of political pipedream, argues that Israel should encourage the dissolution of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf nations into a series of weak, ethnic ministates.
Mr. Yinon claims that his analysis is "shared by many people in power" in Israel. But the article clearly doesn't represent any official Israeli view. Instead, it's an example of the contentious internal debate about Israeli policy that goes on daily in the Hebrew press. Moreover, the Arab reaction to the article may indicate more about Arab fears than the article itself does about Israeli intentions.
Still, given the current fragile situation in the Middle East, in which some Lebanese leaders are accusing Israel of encouraging religious strife between Lebanon's Christian and Druse Moslem sects, Mr. Yinon's article makes interesting reading.
Mr. Yinon's basic premise is that nearly all the Arab states are afflicted with internal religious dissent, and that this "stormy situation" presents Israel with "far-reaching opportunities" to render its neighbors impotent.
"The Moslem Arab world is built like a temporary house of cards, put together by foreigners (France and Britain in the 1920s)," Mr. Yinon writes. He argues that the Arab region "was arbitrarily divided into 19 states, all made of combinations of minorities and ethnic groups which are hostile to one another, so that every Arab Moslem state nowadays faces ethnic and social destruction from within."
Mr. Yinon, writing before the war in Lebanon raised Western hopes for reuniting that country, argues that Lebanon's "total dissolution into five provinces"each controlled by a different Lebanese factionoffers a model of what could happen throughout the Arab world. His predicions:
1. Egypt will be torn by friction between its Sunni Moslem majority and what Mr. Yinon estimates are seven million Egyptian Coptic Christians. "The vision of a Christian Coptic State in upper (southern) Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power . . . seems inevitable in the long run," he says.
2. Syria "will fall . . . into several states," because of strife between its Sunni majority and the members of the Shiite Alawi sect who currently rule the country, Mr. Yinon says. He foresees a breakup of Syria into an Alawite state in the northwest, a Sunni state around the city of Aleppo, another Sunni state around Damascus, and a Druse state in the Golan Heights area.
3. Jordan's King Hussein and his Bedouin allies will inevitably be toppled by the country's Palestinian majority, the sooner the better from Israel's standpoint, the article indicates. "Israel's policy in both war and peace ought to be directed at the liquidation of Jordan under the present regime and the transfer of power to the Palestinian majority," Mr. Yinon writes. He argues that if Israel had adopted this policy after the 1967 war, "we could have saved ourselves all this bitter and dangerous conflict" over the Palestinian problem.
4. Iraq, where a Sunni elite rules a Shiite majority and a restive Kurdish minority, will dissolve into three states. These will be centered around Iraq's three major cities: Basrah in the south (Shiite), Baghdad in the middle (Sunni), and Mosul in the north (Kurdish).
5. Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states will also splinter, partly because of religious pressures in such states as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where Mr. Yinon says Sunni elites are ruling Shiite majorities. "The entire Arabian peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures," Mr. Yinon asserts.
The young Israeli author seems delighted at his sudden notoriety in the Arab world, and he says he isn't surprised at the reaction. "It shows the real fear of those Arab states that they are being dismembered from within," he explains. "It is their predicament, and they realize it more than I do."
For Israel Shahak's translation of the document in question, please see The Zionist Plan for the Middle East.
For a further example of Oded Yinon's published work in English, please also see Egypt's Population Explosion by Oded Yinon.
And finally, although this document is widely discredited as an "anti-Semitic forgery," Yinon's piece seems to harken to one of the key themes of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Quoting from the Introduction to the Protocols, one can read a surprising similarity between the two documents: "A manuscript has been handed to me . . . which with extraordinary precision and clearness describes the plan . . . of bringing the . . . World to its inevitable dismemberment."
It seems that if we simply change "World" to "Arab world," this introduction to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would describe Yinon's document perfectlyparticularly when informed by Israeli military and insurgency actions in Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere as described in Livia Rokach's Israel's Sacred Terrorism and other documents which appear to show actual Israeli plans to realize the objectives Yinon has described.
I would recommend that readers who would not normally be willing to read a document like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion reconsider their hesitations, and taking pains to ignore its deliberately inciteful tone, read it at least once all the way through for themselves. As much as it may appear to be an obviously inflammatory work of predictable anti-Semitic propaganda, as one journalist remarked when the Protocols first appeared in Britain, it also possesses a "weird force" which, in my opinion, should be experienced directly before dismissing.
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