There is no corn or wheat cartel. There are no cell-phone monopolies. Coal
prices are not controlled by global price-fixers. Yet OPEC adjusts the supply of
oil in the Middle East to ensure high prices, mostly for the benefit of Gulf
sheikhdoms and assorted other authoritarian governments.
Catholics don’t assassinate movie directors or artists who treat Jesus Christ
with contempt. Jewish mobs will not murder cartoonists should they ridicule the
Torah. Buddhists are not calling for global blasphemy laws. But radical Muslims,
mostly in the Middle East, have warned the world that Islam alone is not to be
caricatured — or else. Right-wing fascists and red Communists have not done as
much damage to the First Amendment as have the threats from the Arab Street.
The world obsesses over Israel and the Palestinians because of the neurotic
Middle East. The issue is not really the principle of a divided capital — or
Nicosia would be daily news. Nor is the concern over refugees per se, since well
over 500,000 Jews were religiously cleansed from the major Arab capitals
following the 1948 and 1967 wars. No one cares where they went or how they have
fared in the decades since. Is the global worry really over occupied
The oil-rich Middle East is just different from other regions. We don’t
expect another Cal Tech to sprout in Cairo in the way it might in either Bombay
or Beijing. Nor do we assume that a cure for prostate cancer could ever emerge
from Tripoli as it might from Tel Aviv.
In other words, in politically incorrect terms, the world tacitly gives
exemptions to the Middle East — and expects very little in return. It assumes
that the rules that apply elsewhere of civility, tolerance, and nonviolence are
inoperative there — and perhaps have reason to so be.