- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

In the post-Cold War era, few areas of the world are more fertile for the propagation of Big Lies than the Middle East. The Biggest Lie of all traces the pervasive conflicts that have engulfed the Middle East for decades to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Tuesday, Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak gave voice to this particular Big Lie yet again.

In becoming the first Arab leader to publicly endorse the U.S.-British attacks on Afghanistan, Mr. Mubarak qualified his support. "We call on the United States as it fights terrorism [to] solve the Palestinian question, because we believe that it has great importance in the efforts to eradicate the roots of terrorism," Mr. Mubarak declared, attributing the source of the turmoil throughout the Middle East to the "roots" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "There should be a Palestinian state," said Mr. Mubarak, who played a key role torpedoing U.S. diplomatic efforts last year at Camp David that would have produced a Palestinian state. "The problem of the Palestinians should be solved," the Egyptian dictator asserted, "and the Middle East should reach a comprehensive settlement."

It is absurd to believe that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would produce a "comprehensive settlement" for the entire Middle East. In fact, war, terrorism and intimidation are constant features of relationships between Arab states and between Arab and non-Arab Islamic nations as even a cursory survey of recent history of the region would confirm. Consider the following:

• During the 1980s, Arab Iraq, which subscribes to the Sunni branch of Islam, fought a vicious eight-year war, replete with chemical weapons, with non-Arab Iran, which embraces the Shiite sect of Islam.

• In 1990, two years after achieving a cease-fire with Iran, Iraq invaded Kuwait, which Iraq has considered for years to be its 19th province. Kuwait, like Iraq, is an Arab and Islamic nation that embraces Sunni tenets. Only intervention by a U.S.-led coalition prevented Iraq from seizing the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, another Sunni-based Arab regime. Syria, which, like Iraq, has been ruled for decades by the so-called Arab Renaissance (Baath) Socialist Party, nonetheless sided with the Kuwaitis and Saudis. Foreshadowing last month's images of Palestinians, including women and children, dancing in the streets in response to the terrorists' massacre of thousands of Americans at the World Trade Center, Palestinians greeted Iraq's invasion of Kuwait with great joy.

• For a quarter-century now, Syria has used tens of thousands of its army troops to dominate its Arab neighbor, Lebanon, which Syrian maps treat as a province of Syria. In 1976, when Syrian forces intervened in the Lebanese civil war that had erupted the year before between Arab Christians and Arab Muslims, Syria did so in order to prevent a victory by its fellow Muslims.

• For decades, various factions within the Palestine Liberation Organization have fought one another; and now military engagements have erupted in the Gaza Strip between Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and Hamas-backed Palestinian students.

The list of postwar conflicts between Arab states, between Islamic nations and between various Arab factions within Islamic states is virtually endless. The idea that Israel's existence is the root cause of these inter-Arab and inter-Islamic wars is absurd. And yet the Big Lie persists throughout the Middle East.

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