The Role of the West in the Middle East Conflict

This article is written from the perspective of someone living in the economic West, and is addressed primarily to other people living in the West.

The purpose of this essay is to propose a credible explanation for the long-running conflict in the Middle East. But rather than focusing ever more closely on the detail I want to take a step back. So, this is not only an analysis of the Middle East – the basic mechanisms apply to all dominant powers and how they control their sphere of influence. In the case of the Middle East, this analysis has the advantage of not needing to assume that Israeli Jews or Muslim Arabs are any more irrational than any other people, including us in the West.

The biggest root cause of this current conflict lies neither with Israel, nor Palestinians, nor any dispute between them. The conflict was generated and is maintained by powerful economic actors, originally in the British Empire, but now mainly in the USA.

The overall purpose of the conflict is to maintain the economic and strategic interests of the West in the Middle East. The West gains access to the massive energy reserves of the region, but just as importantly, we make sure that no one else has free access to them. This allows the West to maintain economic and strategic domination of much of the rest of the world by controlling the supply of oil and gas. Before oil surpassed it, the primary Western interest in the region was the Suez Canal – control of which provides strategic advantage.

The long-running conflict has allowed the West to dictate what happens in the Middle East by keeping both Israel and the Arab ruling elites dependent on Western support in the form of arms and money. An important part of this analysis is that the West is backing both the Israeli and Arab elites, and that the West’s overriding economic interest is in conflict, not peace. However, it has been important to maintain the illusion of a Peace Process.

The West has supported or installed corrupt rulers in several Arab states. They give us control of the oil and in return we keep them in power with arms and money. Their main job is to keep their population from taking control of their own country. The ‘danger’ to the West is that a self-determined government of the people would certainly decide that it’s not in their interests to have their country and their natural resources controlled by us.

The arms we supply allow the corrupt rulers to protect themselves against the legitimate demands of their own populations. This is the unexplained reason behind why the West continues to supply arms to governments who commit the human rights abuses – a much bigger reason than profit from arms sales.

For the Arab ruling class, a belligerent Israel is also a very useful external enemy that is used to keep discontent in the Arab populations focused away from the Arab rulers.

The ‘danger’ of Arab self determination applies not only to those Middle Eastern countries with oil reserves, but to any country that has the chance to become strong enough to rival our control of the region.

In Israel, the conflict is used to keep the majority Jewish population feeling very insecure. This feeling of insecurity is magnified by historic and recent events in Jewish history. The strong feelings of insecurity make it easy to manipulate Jewish Israelis to support aggressive policies. It’s useful to remember at this point that keeping the population feeling scared of artificial enemies has been very effective in selling aggressive policies within the UK too.

The West supplies Israel with enough arms and money to keep it from being defeated, but never enough to keep it safe. Of course no amount of weapons can ever keep you safe; if anything it’s the opposite – but then this is about manipulating fear, not logic.

Just as with the Arab countries, we keep Israel precariously dependent on our aid.

Now that the conflict has been going for such a long time, other interests have arisen and come to depend on it. For example, because such a lot of weapons are being supplied, it is now in the financial interest of arms companies to keep the conflict alive. Also, many of the ruling elites in Israel now also have economic interests that are dependent on the continuation of the conflict. Some Palestinian leaders maintain their position or status only while the conflict continues. But these are all secondary effects.

From this analysis it follows that the real long term interests of all the peoples in the Middle East lie in their building an alliance with each other, and in their rejection of corrupt governments supported by the West.

Even though it’s likely that no one reading this in the West would knowingly support conflict in the Middle East, without our knowledge our lives have been set up so that our material comfort is dependent on this conflict. So it also follows that before we seek to blame Israelis, Palestinians or anyone else, we should look very closely at our own deep role in this.

Links to further information

The following articles describe how Israel is very similar to other agents that the US sets up around the world to project its power:

US Hegemony, Not “The Lobby,” Behind Complicity With Israel (Stephen Maher)

The Israel Lobby? (Chomsky)

John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, talks about the Middle East in this video:

John Perkins at the Veterans for Peace National Convention

Norman Finkelstein gives a talk about how Israel was set up with the explicit condition by the British Empire that it become the British Empire’s agent in the Middle East to protect the Suez Canal:

Norman Finkelstein on the formation of Israel [Sorry, this video is reported as no longer available. We are trying to find it again…]

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