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The Third Incarnation
Last uploaded : Monday 16th Jun 2003 at 19:59
Contributed by : Richard Grunberger


In the aftermath of the Great War two types of Fascism arose. One was the Nazi variant, the other its distorted Communist mirror image. The two types shared a number of characteristics: the Fuehrerprinzip, denial of human rights, brainwashing, intolerance of dissent, secret police, concentration camps and the pointless sacrifice of millions. The two systems, admittedly, differed in their Jewish policy. While the Nazis pursued physical extermination, the Communists 'merely' enforced compulsory assimilation.

In the decades after the Second World War a third incarnation of Fascism arose in the Arab world. Its first upsurge, Nasserism, was short-lived, but Ba'ath Socialism, the state ideology of Syria and Iraq, proved more durable. Ba'athist rule exhibited all the above-mentioned Fascist characteristics, though the Syrian dictator Assad had a below-average body count, running to a mere 20,000. On the other hand, he established a dynasty, in which he was copied by his Iraqi counterpart. This feature linked the secular Ba'athist regimes to the medieval Saudi monarchy - just as the latter, in turn, shared its archaic religious fervour with the ruling theocracy of post-Shah Iran.

The quartet of Syria, Iraq, Saudi and Iran - veritable Four Horsemen of the Mid-Eastern Apocalypse - squabbled interminably among themselves. However, they formed a monolith of unity, as well as indissoluble bonds, with their scandalously disenfranchised populations via one magic formula: all-encompassing, relentless hatred of Israel. Three of the four had brutally expelled their ancient Jewish communities; all had waged war against the fledgling Jewish state, and had more recently bankrolled terrorist murder gangs inside Israel. All this was allegedly done for the sake of the Palestinians - but if Israel had ever been pushed into the sea, the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan would, in all likelihood, have been partitioned by its fraternal Arab neighbours. Syria would assuredly have incorporated Galilee, Egypt Gaza, and Jordan Jerusalem.

Fortunately, we no longer have to contemplate such a nightmare scenario. Israel has - at huge cost - weathered five wars, two intifadas and an epidemic of suicide bombings. Today, after the victorious conclusion of the coalition's Iraq War, she can look forward to benefiting from the fact that one of the four apocalyptic horsemen has been knocked off his steed. The awesome demise of the Arabic Hitler - even his toppled statue in Central Baghdad pointed symbolically in the direction of Jerusalem - must surely have shone an illuminating light into the hate-befogged collective Arab consciousness. Saddam's downfall should suggest to the Palestinians, and the Muslim world as a whole, that the way forward is to eschew a guerre ? outrance against Israel and futile displays of anti-American mass hysteria in the streets.

In as far as Arabs are amenable to reason, and clear-sighted enough to discern the only possible path forward through the thicket of mutual hatreds and recriminations, they ought to be encouraged by Ariel Sharon's stated readiness to make painful concessions - i.e. abandon some settlements - as an earnest of his commitment to the peace process.

Turning nearer to home, it is a sad indication of the depths to which the liberal organs of the British press have sunk that the Independent's Robert Fisk could state he was only prepared to put the dictator Saddam Hussein in the dock in the company of the elected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. No less deplorable was the sight of the peace lobby self-righteously chanting 'no blood for oil' - and in the next breath cheering Chirac and Putin, whose advocacy of supine inaction over the UN Security Council's Resolution 1441 stemmed from nothing more elevated than cynical considerations of profit. They essentially propped up Saddam so he could use Iraq's oil revenues to repay the huge debts owed to his principal arms suppliers, i.e. themselves! In fact, were the Americans to use their up-to-date plant and technical know-how to increase the output of the investment-starved Iraqi oil industry, the entire global economy would benefit from cheaper energy costs consequent upon the dissolution of the price-fixing OPEC cartel.

Nor could it be said that the polemics that preceded and accompanied the war indicated a high level of public discourse. The peace lobby monotonously resorted to crying wolf as a substitute for informed debate. They made spine-chilling predictions about another Vietnam quagmire, talked ominously about the Muslim world spawning 500 new bin Ladens, and presented gung-ho George Bush as more deserving of public obloquy than Saddam Hussein.

During the war the French public, likewise, was so infected with the anti-American virus that every third person questioned in a Le Monde poll would have preferred an Iraqi victory to the actual outcome. Of course, France is a country with 6 million Muslims - which circumstance may also account for the doubled rate of Jewish emigration to Israel between the first and second year of the current intifada. These statistics, compounded by the pro-Arabist Fisk's flippant coupling of Sharon's name with Saddam's, show that the ghost of the third incarnation of Fascism still waits to be laid.
Richard Grunberger is Editor in Chief of the AJR Journal.
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