Middle East Expert Casts Doubt on Arab Spring
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 19:11
Dan Schueftan, a leading expert on Arab-Israeli relations, spoke about the changing strategic environment in the Middle East at an event sponsored by the Program for Jewish Civilization Wednesday evening.
Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa and senior lecturer at the Israel Defense Forces National Defense College, is teaching at Georgetown this year as the Aaron and Cecile Goldman Visiting Professor in the government department.
During the lecture, Schueftan stressed that the Arab Spring created more instability in an already dysfunctional region.
“Things [in the Middle East] are bad and they are getting worse,” Schueftan said.
According to Schueftan, this wave of revolutions across the region has actually fuelled radicalism while it has continuously been depicted as a sign of hope for democracy in the Western news,
“This so-called democratization is exactly what forces reasonable governments to do what they know they shouldn’t be doing because they have to remain loyal to the public,” he said.
Schueftan also asserted that many Arab countries experience uprisings due to a lack of national cohesion.
“There are only four countries in the Middle East: Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Israel,” he said. “Everywhere else we have just a conglomeration of tribes constantly clashing against one another. Look at what’s happening in Syria, in Lebanon, in Libya. There is no sense of national identity there.”
Taking into account the region’s worsening conditions, Schueftan advised that Israel and the United States should continue to work together to try to mitigate the damage.
“We can’t bring democracy to the Arab world, whether it be by sending marines into Iraq or giving lofty speeches about peace in Cairo,” Schueftan said. “Israel, and to an extent the United States as well, is in a great position to deal with a challenge of this magnitude because we have built a strong society.”
In his closing remarks, Schueftan called on Israel, as a non-Arab country, to protect itself from its neighbors with assistance from the United States.
“The question that we as Israelis have asked ourselves is, seeing how the Arabs treat each other, their own brothers, in Iran, in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, in Sudan, will they treat Jews any better?” Schueftan said. “The net assessment is that for now peace is not an option. In order to deal with things going forward, Israel and the United States will need to continue to have both heart and spine. We must not be afraid to defend liberty, when necessary, with the use of force.”
Students commended Schueftan’s forceful, and at times provocative, presentation of his views.
“He definitely has a very unique, strong perspective on things,” Charly Jaffe (SFS ’13) said. “He’s very honest about what he believes and represents a sort of very hardened, pragmatic Israeli stance. It’s nice to hear a different take on things, particularly within the American university system, where you don’t tend to encounter views like this so often.”