Question Of Recognising Israel And Possibility Of Sectarian Violence

Question Of Recognising Israel And Possibility Of Sectarian Violence

There is a sectarian dimension to the issue of awarding recognition to Zionist state of Israel—all those Muslim countries of Middle East, which have recognized Israel or which are advocating the recognition of Israeli state, are Orthodox Sunni states. Whereas, Iran—the only state which remained steadfastly opposed to establishing any kind of diplomatic relations with Israel—is a Shia orthodox state. All those non-state actors, which are politically opposed to extending recognition to Israel or which are militarily fighting the Israeli state, adhere to orthodox Shia faith.  This includes as an example of first type the Shia population of tiny Gulf sheikhdom of Bahrain and as an example of second type the Hezbollah Militia of Lebanon.

Above described political scenario is not simply a neat description of picture of diplomatic division in the Arab world over the question of recognizing or not recognizing Israel—rather this scenario involves a waging of a ferocious sectarian civil war in Arab world, with financially powerful backers providing financial and military assistance to their co-religionists in the active fighting in countries including Syria Yemen and Iraq. This civil war has the potential to spread to countries including Bahrain, where a Sunni dynasty is ruling over a Shia population and which has only recently extended diplomatic recognition to Israel. This sectarian civil war can extend to countries with relatively calmer social and political conditions and strong and stable states.

The civil war obviously is not about the question of extending diplomatic recognition to Israel but certainly the issue of conservative Arab sheikhdoms awarding diplomatic relations to Israel will cause further tensions in the already tense sectarian relations in Arab societies, with so neat a division on the question between Sunni states, which awarded recognition and Shia state and non state actors which are opposed to Muslim world extending recognition to Israel. There are clear reports that these rival sectarian states are aiding and abetting their respective co-religionists in sectarian civil war in Syria and other war torn countries. Saudi Arabia is aiding and abetting Bahraini monarchy in instituting draconian measures to control their rebellious Shia population. Iran is helping Syrian regime, which has a sectarian character against the Sunni rebels. Iran is also aiding and abetting Houthi rebels in Yemen.

How will this sectarian civil war affect the question of extending recognition to Israeli state? or conversely how this question of recognition could affect the civil war? Not very difficult to judge or assess: The act on the part of Sunni states in the Arab world awarding recognition to Israel would further sharpen the ideological division between Shia and Sunni groups in the Middle East. It might also fuel the civil war in countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq and sectarian civil strife in countries Bahrain.

Iranian backed Lebanon based Hezbollah Militia is not only fighting Israeli state across the Lebanon –Israel border, it is also providing military assistance to Syrian regime fighting Sunni rebels in their country. Though the Houthis rebels in Yemen are at a great distance from them, Hizbullah Militia and its leaders , nevertheless, provide political support to them. Saudis have shown no reluctance to seek American support against the Houthis and Hizbullah—now if Israel with its vast experience of fighting urban fighters jumps into the arena can add viciousness to the already vicious sectarian situation in the Arab world.

Arab Sheikhdom’s recognition of Israel will add legitimacy to the Zionist actions of intervening military in conflicts in the Muslim world. Israel is already opposed to the Bashar-al-Azad regime in Syria and has been providing military assistance to rebel groups. Will it increase the assistance to secure the demise of Syrian regime? This could bring disastrous social and ideological conflicts at the doorsteps of Muslim societies.

Pakistan cannot remain aloof from this ideological and sectarian strife in the Arab world. We have a sizable Shia population with ideological links to radical groups in Iran, Iraq and Syria. Both Pakistani Shia and Sunni groups have been fighting in Syrian civil war on the respective side of sectarian divides in that society. Pakistani officials confirm that these Shia and Sunni groups have recently started journeys back home after a prolonged participation in Syrian civil war. This could mean more sectarian fighting in Pakistan. Now, the issue of recognizing Israel could further radicalize the conflict and strife in Pakistani society with respective sectarian sides receiving funds and training from their foreign masters and friends. No government in Pakistan could ignore the sectarian dimension of the issue of extending diplomatic recognition to Israel. If we recognize Israel on the cajoling of Arab sheikhdoms, we will certainly be entrenching more comfortably in Sunni camp, with the possibility of further radicalization of Shia opinion in our society.

It is not yet clear what role Israel will now play in Muslim world. Will it carry on with its Anti-Iranian rhetoric? Will it continue with its secret planes to bomb Iranian nuclear sites? Will the insecure Arab Sheikhdoms facilitate any military role of Israel in the Arab world? This will be recipe for disaster for Muslim world in general but for Pakistan in particular. Controlling sectarian violence will be a particular problem for us in Pakistan.

We have recently witnessed the rise of the near fascist Tehrik-e-Laibak Pakistan group, which is pursuing slogans and programs with least concerns for political issues like Palestine. Their slogans and programs are completely and purely apolitical and religious in nature. This means revivalist groups with a clear modern political agenda are giving way to groups with religious and apolitical slogans with a tinge of violence attached to them. This makes things easier for Pakistani political and military establishment—issues like extending recognition to Israel don’t cause a bleep on the radars of these groups. They are busy planning to nuke Paris for what the French have done.

Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.