Many of my English readers, especially those from USA and UK, would be surprised to know how anti US, anti UK, anti Israel and pro Arab the continental European press is. Because very few people in the world read press in translation or are both bilingual and interested in knowing what others think, this strong dislike for the policies of the US, the UK and Israel has mostly gone unnoticed in the anglo saxon world.
Living in Madrid and running a foundation like Safe Democracy, I have had a hard time dealing with commentators who have lost perspective as of the causes of the wars in the Muslim world. It is difficult for me to read newspapers like El Pais who frequently attribute all evil in the region to the bad policy choices of the US, the UK and Israel to the point in which the average Spaniard now thinks of Israel as a nation who invaded not just the Palestinian territories (a view which I share) but Israel itself (a view that is simply wrong). While I do believe that these three nations have made tragic policy mistakes in the region, and many times have done more harm than good I am also convinced that the problem of radical Islam has little to do with US, UK and Israel. Radical islamists hate fellow Muslims more than they hate Christians, Jews and anyone else in the planet. Most likely, even without any intervention from USA, UK or Israel the Muslim world would have been a part of the world suffering from horrendous wars similar to those that were found in the Christian world a century before. A proof of this is that during the last 20 years many more Muslims have been killed by Muslims than Muslims by Infidels. This is evident right now in the three Arab Civil Wars: the civil war between Al Fatah and Hamas, between the Lebanese and Palestinians and the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. These conflicts have caught the Continental European progressives by surprise as it is becoming more and more apparent that it is hard to blame USA, UK and Israel for the virulent Muslim vs Muslim character of these three wars.
The Middle East is a very complex region. It is a geographical area that includes the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, and Palestine, to which other areas such as Islamic Africa and other muslim countries which borders reach China, Russia and India are commongly added. This area is today divided in 21 different countries. But the Middle East has also many other divisions that are stronger than political ones. Even though most of them are muslim, 400 million people speaking 25 languages and dialects and divided in more than 40 ethnic groups and religions coexist in the region. Economically speaking, poverty reaches half of the population. 44 million people do not have access to running water, 96 million have no access to proper hygiene and unemployment rates are the higher in the world. As a result, war is but one of the big problems that affect people in the Middle East.
The result of this very complex set of similarities, realities and differences is -among other things- a group of conflicts that seem to have no end, that are difficult to understand to the western world with severe and deep consequences to the whole region (and the world) not only from a decent life and human development point of view, but from a survival one. The fact is that conflict in the Arab world has generated an enormous and incredibly high amount of victims. Even conflicts such as the Israel-Palestine and the US invasion to Iraq seem to represent minor ones if compared to the amount of deaths and all kind of misfortunes product of differences and conflicts within muslims.
According to data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 400 Palestinians where killed in the last 14 months after civil war between Al Fatah and Hamas erupted. 119 Palestinians where killed by their countrymen during the first quarter of 2007, contrasting with the 34 who were killed in riots with the Israeli troops.
“The Washington Post” reported in 2005 that rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites ended with more than 1300 killings in 7 days, and officials also estimate killings in this conflict arose to 7.728 during the first half of 2007.
Only in Algeria “not official” civil war between the army and radical islamic groups caused 150.000 deaths between 1992 and 2003. One million people were killed in the Iraq-Iran war that took place between 1980 and 1988. And in Afghanistan, civil war started in 1973 and constant conflicts ended up with thousands of deaths per year and more than 2.5 million refugees.
Sudan is also a country ripped off by constant civil wars since it gained independence from the UK in 1956. These conflicts, which originally had ethnic origins, have now turned into religious conflicts between Arab muslims from the north and christian africans from the south, generating such a degree of violence that made Sudan face an enormous crisis. In 2003 some 4.5 million Sudanese were homeless (living in extreme poverty as refugees), more than 2.5 million killed and thousands are starving. And even tough a peace treaty has been signed, there are still conflicts, specially in the Darfour province, where one of the most tragic humanitarian crisis is taking place.
Also consequences of the Kurd nationalism and its fight against Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria is also tragic. Only 35.000 people were killed in this conflict in Turkey since the Kurdistan Workers Party started the fight for a free Kurdistan in 1984. And in 15 years more than 400.000 Kurds were killed in Iraq.
Conflict in northern Lebanon between Lebanese armed forces and Fatah al-Islam is the worst internal conflict in Lebanon since the civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990 and in which 7% of the population died (around 200.000 people). Since this conflict started in May 2007, more than 130 people died and between 3000 and 8000 Palestinian civilians trapped in the refugee camp of Nahr al Bared because of the combats taking place between the Lebanese army and member of the islamic armed group.
I know that misfortune, tragedy and stupidity of war is not only measured in the loss of human lives. It is sometimes necessary to provide casualty numbers so we can see the real dimension of these conflicts. The Arab world is bleeding today because of genocides, civil wars, terrorism, , religion conflicts, lack of justice, ambition, corruption and poverty of their societies. The left wing European press in my view does well in reporting the terrible mistakes made by the United States especially the Iraqi invasion and by Israel who in my view grossly overreacted to the Hezbollah threat and destabilized Lebanon much further. But having said this I think that it is impossible to explain for example why is it that if the Americans are so hated in Iraq than the Iraqis don´t unite against the invaders. Iraq is to me one further proof that the Muslim World is going through a period in this century similar to what the Christian world through during the first half of the 20th century and that no matter what Europe and USA do conflict will persist until the Muslims themselves sort their issues out and realize a simple truth, that peace is better than war.
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