A Rough Neighborhood

I was honored to deliver the keynote address at the Annual Shirley C. Green Memorial Symposium last week. I was asked to share some of my thinking about Israel – about its rhythm of politics and community, and how these play out across the challenges and horizons of what Israelis face. So I talked about peace and security, the character of Israeli society, and Diaspora-Israel connections.
But one of the most interesting aspects for me was to explain what a global conflict tracker is. You can find conflict trackers on the web. For the most part, they’re nonpartisan collection-and-analysis centers of all the current conflicts happening around the world, at any given moment.
Right now, there are something like 30 significant armed conflicts going on around the world. And I (very) briefly surveyed the current conflict map of the Middle East. Because there’s something fascinating that we tend to overlook.
Syria contains the world’s bloodiest war by far; it’s also generated millions of refugees; and we’ve been seeing the ripple effect of that conflict across Europe these past few weeks, especially. (I’m proud that our Federation is supporting the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, which is providing humanitarian support for these refugees.)
The Syrian war basically spread to Iraq last year, a second major conflict zone, with radical Islamists fighting and seizing land.
The third high-intensity armed conflict is in Libya, with continued fighting between the armed militias that overthrew Gaddafi. And now there are rival governments in two halves of the country.
The fourth conflict is in Sudan, with lots of attacks on the border with South Sudan.
Five is in Egypt – with an Islamist insurgency, mostly in Sinai, challenging the Sisi government.
Sixth is in Lebanon. The central government has basically collapsed, and Hezbollah controls the south.
And the seventh conflict is in Yemen. The post-Saleh government is holding against Islamic militants in the south, but there’s now a lot of tribal fighting in the north.
So, there are seven armed conflicts in the Middle East in the same area. What did I leave out? Israel/Palestinians. That would be the eighth.
But think about this for a moment.
What does it mean?
It means that right now there are seven wars raging around Israel’s immediate neighborhood. Seven wars that have nothing to do with Israel. The Israeli-Palestinian situation isn’t the cause of conflict in the Middle East. This isn’t the U.S.-Canadian border, or Western Europe. Israel is in a really rough neighborhood. When people claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the reason” for unrest in the region, we shouldn’t forget what’s actually happening.

For those of us fasting and observing Yom Kippur, may it be a meaningful one. Gmar Chatima Tova, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for health, happiness, and light.


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