Why is Liberal Ideology Suppressed in the Middle East?
Amidst ongoing debates surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Gaza war, one intriguing question remains unanswered: why is liberal ideology a minority view or even totally suppressed in the Middle East? Western intellectuals and commentators often weigh in confidently on the matter, but how well do they truly understand the complexities and realities of the region? Have they lived or spent a significant portion of their lives in the Middle East?
It raises a fundamental question: can someone who has never tasted a green apple truly comprehend its flavor, no matter how many books they have read or people they have spoken to about it? Similarly, have these commentators ever taken the time to question why countries in the Middle East, including those bordering Israel, do not prioritize human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, or LGBTQ+ rights? Why is liberal ideology a minority view, or even suppressed, in this entire region spanning from Afghanistan to the shores of the Mediterranean?
The answer is clear to anyone who has grown up or lived in the Middle East: the foundations of leadership in these countries rest on strength, honor, power, and often religious influences. These concepts simply do not align with the principles of leadership found in liberal democracies around the world. In essence, we are dealing with different people, ways of life, beliefs, and perspectives.
Historically, attempts to impose Western models of governance in the Middle East have been met with limited success. Examples such as the ill-fated Operation Freedom in Iraq in 2003, the short-lived democracy in Afghanistan following the invasion, and even the aftermath of Egypt’s Arab Spring in 2012, where the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power, highlight the challenges faced in implementing Western-style democracies. These instances ultimately resulted in unrest, alternative leadership, or the reassertion of traditional power structures.
Israel stands apart from its neighbors in the region. While it aspires to be a part of the Western world and uphold liberal democratic values, it finds itself surrounded by Hezbollah, Hamas, and the regime of President Assad in Syria. As a result, Israel must navigate a complex and challenging landscape, often in contradiction to the fundamental beliefs of the progressive left.
There have been periods when Israel lived up to the humanitarian standards observed by countries bordering Wales or Canada, such as during the mid-1990s after the Oslo Accords were signed. Yet, there are also times, like the present, where Israel is dragged into war. In those moments, speaking the language understood and respected by its neighbors becomes necessary for its survival.
To those who criticize Israel’s use of power in conflict situations and propose alternative ways to combat Hamas, Hezbollah, or the jihadists in Syria, who invade or plan to invade Israeli territory and perpetrate heinous acts, it is essential to invite them to live in the region for a few years. It is only by experiencing the realities on the ground that one can fully comprehend the challenges Israel faces and the complexities involved in defending its nation against those who use civilians as shields and commit atrocities.
In conclusion, the suppression of liberal ideology in the Middle East is a result of the distinct cultural, historical, religious, and political dynamics at play in the region. While Western commentators may hold firm beliefs and idealized visions of how governance should be, it is crucial to recognize that different regions have different contexts. It is only through a nuanced understanding, lived experience, and genuine dialogue that progress and change can be fostered in the Middle East.