2017-04-05

Reality Behind Arab Threats to Destroy Israel

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Everybody “knows” that when Israel declared its independence the Arab states amassed their armies and marched into Palestine hoping to throw all the Jews out into the sea, but that tiny David overcame their onslaught and as if by divine miracle drove them back behind their borders. Everybody “knows” that again in 1967 tiny Israel launched a preemptive attack on her surrounding Arab neighbours who were secretly preparing to deliver a surprise attack to wipe Israel off the map. Everybody “knows” that Israel has lived daily in the shadow of a perpetual threat to her very existence from an alliance of Goliath-sized Arab neighbours.

Is that the reality, though?

Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy by Zeev Maoz provides excellent insights into the “behind the scenes” realities of Israel’s wars and responses to real and imagined threats since 1956. For some basic info on Zeev Maoz see his Wikipedia entry; see also the publisher’s promotion of Defending the Holy Land.

Some excerpts (all bolding and formatting is mine):

We noted that the Arab states never exerted a concentrated social, political, and military effort in converting the dream of destroying the state of Israel into reality. The rhetoric of genocide and politicide was not backed up by anything close to the kind of resources and diplomatic coordination that was required for realizing this dream. Most Israeli politicians and scholars accepted the fundamental asymmetry in resources as a constant in the strategic equation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet nearly nobody bothered to ask why — if the Arab states were so committed to the destruction of the Jewish state — they refrained from investing the resources required for such a “project.”

Maoz, Zeev. Defending the Holy Land (p. 574). University of Michigan Press. Kindle Edition.

Even if the human and material military burdens of the Arab states were to stay at their current levels, the Arabs could put together an incredible economic and social challenge to Israel simply by forming a military coalition that pooled their resources in an effective and rational manner. Saudi Arabia, for example, spends $22 billion on defense annually, more than twice the Israeli defense budget. It has fairly free access to American and Western European weapons markets. Had it decided to put its military hardware and financial resources at the disposal of this Arab coalition, Israel would have been under extremely precarious strategic conditions. Again, no shots have to be fired in order to erode Israel’s capacity to meet these challenges.

Finally, consider an effective implementation of the Arab boycott on Israel and on companies trading with it and couple it by a threat to deny or limit the exports of oil to Israel’s main trading partners. If the oil-rich Arab states had been willing to suffer the economic costs of such a threat, Israel’s trade with the outside world would have significantly declined. Since Israel imports much of its basic needs in food, energy, and industrial inputs, it would not have been able to survive economically. Thus, there exist several scenarios — none of them far fetched if we follow the logic of Israeli politicians and strategists — in which Israel loses the big war without having a single shot fired at it.

But the Arab states never came close to materializing the elements of these scenarios. Why?

One of the — quite reasonable — answers to this question is simply that they never had the intention of destroying Israel. Clearly, the numerous peace overtures by Syrian and Egyptian leaders in the early 1950s and the secret meetings between King Abdullah and King Hussein with the Israeli leaders throughout the 1947–94 era suggest as much. The extremely hostile rhetoric was strictly for domestic and inter-Arab consumption; it was a weapon in the struggle for leadership in the Arab world. It was also an instrument for diverting domestic attention from the economic, social, and political problems of the regimes. Right from the start, the Arab leaders knew that destroying Israel was an unrealistic dream. At the same time, they could not afford to change the anti-Israel rhetoric from an extremely hostile one to a peaceful one; many of those who tried paid with their lives. This hostile rhetoric turned into a double-edged sword (Rubin 2002, 193–226).

In light of this situation, the discrepancy between words and deeds in Arab politics portrays a different picture from the one arising from Israeli doomsday scenarios. Starting in the preindependence period, Israel faced a strategic reality that was dramatically different from what its leaders had perceived and — more important — from what they had the Israeli public believe. In this sense, the Israeli leadership was as responsible for misrepresenting the gravity of the conflict to its society as were Arab leaders with regard to their own societies.

There was one monumental difference, however, between the employment of hostile perception and rhetoric by Israeli leaders and Arab leaders. The Israeli leadership used the magnified threat perception to effectively mobilize its society for political, economic, and social development. The Arab leadership, almost without exception, used hatred and hostility toward Israel to deepen and perpetuate the state of backwardness, underdevelopment, and political stagnation that characterized the Arab Middle East since the withdrawal of France and Britain in the late 1940s. And it is this difference that helps account for the ability of Israel to develop an effective political, economic, and social system despite the continued state of conflict. . . .

Maoz, Zeev. Defending the Holy Land (pp. 575-576). University of Michigan Press. Kindle Edition.

22 Comments

  • Roger Lambert
    2017-04-06 16:35:06 UTC - 16:35 | Permalink

    “One of the — quite reasonable — answers to this question is simply that they never had the intention of destroying Israel.”

    Every poll of Arab opinion, every Arab political platform, every speech by countless Imams, every map sold in the Mideast (none have Israel shown) proves this to be false. Once again, you reinforce anti semitic memes here. And you banned me for pointing this out

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-04-06 21:28:47 UTC - 21:28 | Permalink

      What is anti-semitic about anything posted here or written by Zeev Moaz? Cite specifics.

      You make very sweeping claims with “every poll… every Arab political platform… every speech by countless imams… every map…” I presume by “every” you mean only those you have bookmarked and consider valid and that any evidence that does not support your bias (including that cited by Moaz) is invalid and “reinforcing anti-semitic memes”.

      Your comment does indeed smack of blind unreasoning bigotry. Now why not try to address the argument of the post and tackle it rationally and with evidence? It would first help if you demonstrated an understanding of the argument made.

      But if you start throwing around slurs suggesting that I am antisemitic I will ban you again. Some people have indeed posted virulent antisemitic comments here and I routinely delete and ban them. I do the same for bigots and racists on the opposite side of the barrier.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2017-04-07 11:04:44 UTC - 11:04 | Permalink

    Constructive comments welcome. Commenters are expected to engage seriously with the content of the post, and that means demonstrating an understanding of the argument expressed and responding with reason and evidence.

    Mere sarcasm and patent racism, bigotry and expressions of determined ignorance will be (and have been) deleted.

  • 2017-04-12 14:50:48 UTC - 14:50 | Permalink

    The prohibition on related issues here always reminds me of Bugs Bunny trying to clarify the rules in his boxing match with Elmer Fudd. “Okay, so there’s none of this? And there’s none of this?”.

    Zeev Maoz is from UC-Davis so no reason for the rhetorical “Where do you find these guys?”.

    His book is a one sided criticism of Israel so I understand that it is appropriate material for this Blog. What exactly are the Rules of Engagement here as to the boundaries of comments? All his articles (which all criticize Israel), all of his book or only the main assertion above that the Arab invaders of Israel had no intent of destroying it?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-04-13 12:07:40 UTC - 12:07 | Permalink

      When you read the book come back with a justified criticism — with evidence from the book itself. Blanket ad hominem is not acceptable here. Nor is there any place in a serious debate for those who dehumanise both sides: demonising one party and exalting to angelic (fundamentally virtuous) status the other.

      (Or you can even attempt to address the actual content of the post.)

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  • Steven C Watson
    2017-04-19 23:55:15 UTC - 23:55 | Permalink

    So it was entirely possible if the Arab nations were serious about ending the State of Israel they could have done if they combined to do so but the didn’t combine to do so because they realised they couldn’t have done so? That doesn’t make any kind of sense; this guys intellect seems to be impaired. That or cognitive dissonance. Either way, I wouldn’t bother reading any further and bin the thing.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-04-20 02:25:39 UTC - 02:25 | Permalink

      Your reading comprehension skills appear to be sub par. I see no link between the words I quoted and your own bizarre substitutes.

  • 2017-04-27 08:00:01 UTC - 08:00 | Permalink

    The book is interesting, has a lot of history and he makes some good observations. He gets off to a bad start though in the Introduction……..

    [Remainder of post deleted by Neil — explanation in the comment following]

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-04-27 09:02:53 UTC - 09:02 | Permalink

      Joe, you have thankfully removed the sarcasm etc which is a plus. But that was only half of what is expected.

      You still have failed to address the topic of the post as requested. If you want to do a book review of a general nature (albeit one that complains that the author fails to fully justify or excuse Israel and fails to completely blame and never excuse Arabs) you have your own sites for that.

      Now how about applying your insights to addressing the specifics of the argument and evidence in the post.

  • kanootcha
    2017-04-27 09:13:47 UTC - 09:13 | Permalink

    I think your definition of “reality” is radically different from mine Neil.
    I could come up with 5 reasons for the Arab nations not destroying Israel, with very little trouble, that are all far more likely/real than the “they never had the intention of destroying Israel.” that Maoz proposes.
    They (individually and collectively, if collectively is a word you could use in the context of the Middle East)
    1. are afraid of the international backlash that would result.
    2. would lose their ready/easy excuse for why an area ruled by the religion of peace is the least peaceful region on earth.
    3. are so caught up in their own political squabbles (internal and external) that they can’t focus on another one in anything other than rhetoric.
    4. are so inept that they couldn’t organize a game of hide the houri in a hijab factory, let alone the massive multi-national war effort that would be required to best an alert Israel.
    5. know they wouldn’t succeed.

    The last paragraph of Maoz’s you quoted certainly seems spot on though.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-04-27 11:24:18 UTC - 11:24 | Permalink

      Do you dispute the evidence and related conclusions of Maoz? Can you address the points in the post and why, specifically, you find them fallacious? Can you cite specific evidence that supports your contrary conclusions?

      • kanootcha
        2017-04-27 11:52:14 UTC - 11:52 | Permalink

        “We noted that the Arab states never exerted a concentrated social, political, and military effort in converting the dream of destroying the state of Israel into reality. The rhetoric of genocide and politicide was not backed up by anything close to the kind of resources and diplomatic coordination that was required for realizing this dream. Most Israeli politicians and scholars accepted the fundamental asymmetry in resources as a constant in the strategic equation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet nearly nobody bothered to ask why — if the Arab states were so committed to the destruction of the Jewish state — they refrained from investing the resources required for such a “project.””

        Covered by my points 3 & 4

        “Even if the human and material military burdens of the Arab states were to stay at their current levels, the Arabs could put together an incredible economic and social challenge to Israel simply by forming a military coalition that pooled their resources in an effective and rational manner. Saudi Arabia, for example, spends $22 billion on defense annually, more than twice the Israeli defense budget. It has fairly free access to American and Western European weapons markets. Had it decided to put its military hardware and financial resources at the disposal of this Arab coalition, Israel would have been under extremely precarious strategic conditions. Again, no shots have to be fired in order to erode Israel’s capacity to meet these challenges.”

        Covered by my point 1 & 2 (particularly relevant with the Saudis as if they attacked Israel they would very likely never again get the opportunity to have such prestigious and important seats like that which they’ve recently obtained on the UN Women’s Rights Commission. (cough) fox (cough) chicken-house)

        “Finally, consider an effective implementation of the Arab boycott on Israel and on companies trading with it and couple it by a threat to deny or limit the exports of oil to Israel’s main trading partners. If the oil-rich Arab states had been willing to suffer the economic costs of such a threat, Israel’s trade with the outside world would have significantly declined. Since Israel imports much of its basic needs in food, energy, and industrial inputs, it would not have been able to survive economically. Thus, there exist several scenarios — none of them far fetched if we follow the logic of Israeli politicians and strategists — in which Israel loses the big war without having a single shot fired at it.”

        This would have almost no chance of working as Israel has open access to the Mediterranean and US and Israeli naval presence would never allow an enforceable blockade. They get most of their oil currently from the Kurds and I’m sure the U.S. would be quite willing to sell Israel 100% of its requirements if this source was blocked or dried up.

        Also, none of your quotes are “evidence” as you put it, just conjecture. So I just conjectured 5 points that I think better explain the situation. Can you tell me why you think Maoz’s reason is any better than my 5 reasons?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-04-27 12:04:11 UTC - 12:04 | Permalink

          All you have done is express opinion. Maoz has produced a scholarly work based on an analysis of the data.

          • kanootcha
            2017-04-27 12:18:18 UTC - 12:18 | Permalink

            The problem is you haven’t presented this supposed data, or its analysis on the site, and the 3 paragraphs you did quote are PURE conjecture. So (as I said in my previous comment) all I can do is provide 5 better reasons than the 1 he purported.

            I see you didn’t address any of my answers to his ridiculous conjecture. What do you think about the blockade claim he made? Isn’t that totally wrong and doesn’t it throw his entire “scholarly work” into question?

            Give me one piece of evidence that supports his claim that the Arab world could blockade Israel, and I’m happy to discuss that…………..

            • Neil Godfrey
              2017-04-27 21:43:28 UTC - 21:43 | Permalink

              As James points out below, there is no “claim that the Arab world could blockade Israel” at all. And a word search in Moaz’s book shows that he nowhere claims that Arabs could “blockade” Israel.

              I have no interest in discussing anything with anyone who does not bother to read what I write and at the same time fails to notice what I don’t write.

              Can I tell you why I write these posts?

              It is to help share points that I believe will give a better understanding and knowledge of today’s conflict and its background — and of the actors involved.

              If you are upset because I do not totally condemn one side and speak of them as less than human and totally justify the other side and sympathetically excuse any of their excesses, if you are upset that I approach all humans in a conflict as of the same species, then you are one who might potentially most benefit from picking up the works I discuss and opening your mind to new insights and details that are not widely known.

              • kanootcha
                2017-04-27 23:14:15 UTC - 23:14 | Permalink

                Of course he didn’t mention a blockade, because it would expose how unachievable the aims in his 3rd paragraph you quoted are. *I* am the one who mentioned a blockade because without it there would be no way to bring Israel to its knees by boycotting trade partners. They have the luxury of open access to the coast and would just get other trade partners. If the Arab states surrounded Israel, then that would be another story, and they might have a shot at doing what Maoz proposes.

                Also the first paragraph of “Agriculture in Israel” wikipedia article makes his claim that they import most of their food seem unfounded, casting doubt on his research (I checked this because I was already pretty sure that Israel grew most of their own food, if you have other stats that show they don’t then I’m happy to see them). “Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry: Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture…Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar.” I’m pretty sure Israel would easily survive without the ability to import food.

                OK, forget that point. Show me any evidence for ANY of the conjecture in the 3 paragraphs that you quoted in your post. Particularly any evidence that contradicts my 5 points.

                I’m open to learn about all sides of this problem, but your post does not do that, as it just shows a conclusion. One that seems obviously wrong to me, despite rereading the OP multiple times.

              • kanootcha
                2017-04-27 23:16:28 UTC - 23:16 | Permalink

                I can’t edit, so where I said “most of their food”, should read “much of their food”. Don’t want you ignoring my whole post for such a small mistake.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2017-04-27 23:25:59 UTC - 23:25 | Permalink

                Give me a precis of the OP to assure me that you really do comprehend Maoz’s point and I will be prepared to talk with you. But making up your own arguments for the Arab states instead of addressing (as distinct from merely contradicting) the specific arguments made by Maoz in the OP indicates you have little that is constructive to offer.

              • kanootcha
                2017-04-27 23:30:50 UTC - 23:30 | Permalink

                Wow! Seriously?

                How about you get off that high-horse you’re on and show us the evidence for Maoz’s conjecture.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2017-04-27 23:37:31 UTC - 23:37 | Permalink

                You have put words into my mouth that I never said and then presumed to justify your insinuations despite my explicit denial. When you take a valium, have a healthy salad and a good sleep and calm down and are prepared to discuss the topic calmly and with an effort to genuinely comprehend what those you disagree with have to say then you will be welcome to return here.

  • James D williams
    2017-04-27 20:04:50 UTC - 20:04 | Permalink

    The word “blockade” does not occur in Neil’s limited post.
    Napoleon tried to “blockade” Britain, of all places.
    (The Continental System, Wikipedia)

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