September 11th 2012 launched forth a new phase in the nationalistic movements of the Middle East popularly dubbed as the Arab Spring. A film attacking the sanctity of Islam entitled The Innocence of Islam created by supposedly an Israeli-American man, Sam Bacile, whose identity still remains blotted with mystery caused an intense backlash aimed at America in general. Demonstrations sparked ablaze from Tunisia to Lebanon, from Iran to Yemen and Bahrain. Our mass media conveyed to us the unfortunate death of Mr. Christopher Stevens, the American Ambassador to Libya, among others at the US Embassy in Benghazi. The compound received attacks from an organized group of “gathering armed, bearded protestors” whose identity and affiliation remains altogether unknown. In Cairo, protests range from peaceful to militant, fiery actually, while flames shredded through the red, white and blue flag outside of the American consulate there and in Bangladesh and other places. Groups of people recognized by the West as Extremists hoisted their own flag outside of the American Embassy in Cairo. A lustrous black banner with white script now flies saying: “There is no god but Allah, the Prophet Muhammad is the messenger.”
Hitherto these events, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his aversion towards the Obama administration for its diplomacy in Iran, rather than the hint of hostility that would satisfy him. Suspicions of a nuclear program developing in and/or around Tehran has agitated Netanyahu and justifies for him an intensification in the US foreign policy attitude. Republicans here view President Obama’s diplomacy as “inadequate support for Israel.”[i] Perhaps ‘adequate’ support would coalesce as a heightened readiness to make war with Iran. Many have criticized Israel for its seeming lack of constraint in the way of perhaps engaging in an armed conflict. Netanyahu has reacted to such allegations with a strong sense of entitlement saying that “those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”[ii] President Obama remains generally hesitant to meddle extensively in the affairs of Iran especially because of the campaign for his potential second term in the White House.
Despite the geographical headlock in which Israel finds itself, the leaders of the Jewish state seem to welcome war before necessity would urge it. A possible reason for this lies in the fact that a large part of the Israeli economy depends on its development of military, security and anti-terrorist technology. For example, the Israeli economy experienced a boom in its gross domestic product between 2002 and 2007 because of its role as the Western world’s security technology dealer in the immediate post-9/11 era. Students and staff at the Technion, considered the MIT of Israel, located in Haifa, have contributed the most to the advancements in today’s defense technology. In these volatile times, putting Israel’s products to use would rake in some profit. Netanyahu’s intentions to keep relations sour between Israel and Iran could have, in part, been catalyzed by this economic arrangement promising prosperity in the case of war. This is but one aspect of Israel’s motivation to enter into an armed conflict.
GDP – real growth rate (%)
But with the anti-US turmoil spreading all about the Muslim world and the Arab world (including Iran of course), the grip that the West and Israel have over this part of world seems to be loosening a bit at least based on the events that have occurred in the span of just three to four days. This climate of unpredictability has the potential to push Israel into a more defensive state capable of causing a scramble for the nearest weapon and then boom: all out war, innocent bloodshed, smoke filled skies over pulverized and desolate cities.
Filmmaker Sam Bacile, if that is his real name, said that “Islam is a cancer” on top of releasing The Innocence of Islam. And because his first amendment right protects him from the type of punishment that certain Muslims would like to mete out to him, the American flag, to many, can no longer carry the same amount of clout as before in countries where our Bill of Rights are irrelevant anyway and where, in some circles, the passages in the Quran are of a most high language. These demonstrations are challenging America’s influence in the Middle East and may come to challenge the judgment of Israeli officials.
[i] “Israel Criticizes Obama’s Strategy on Iran Nuclear Program”. The Wall Street Journal. 12 Sept 2012. p.A4.