Back in May, I stated,
"The problems found in Israel, Palestine, and Sudan are not unique to any of these groups. The whole region has problems with ethnic and religious strife, predicated upon the need to safeguard ones own rights at the expense of others."
Then, last month, "Iraq and the Kurds: The Brewing Battle over Kirkuk," the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examined the looming conflict in and around the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
The ICG described the struggle as equal parts street brawl over oil riches; ethnic competition over identity between Kurdish, Turkmen, Arab and Assyrian-Chaldean communities; and titanic clash between two groups, Arabs and Kurds.
However, you wouldn't know the Middle East is endemic with lack of intergroup trust, given the world's tunnel-vision. The international media, as well as the United Nations and other international bodies, tend to focus upon the conflict between Israelis and Arabs alone when looking at the Middle East. This may be why they focused upon 900+ tragic civilian deaths in Lebanon, but ignored 3,348 tragic civilian deaths in Iraq during the same month.
There may be many reasons behind this, one of which very well may be that Jews and Lebanese are considered the two "whitest" groups in the Middle East and therefore have the so-called privilege of international concern. Elsewhere, however, socio-political problems continued to manifest themselves, just without the equivalent, let alone any significant, attention. For example, how many of you knew that Turkey and Iran have reportedly been shelling the PKK in Iraq lately?
Or that the United Nations says that Iran is forcibly expelling hundreds of thousands of Arabs out of Khuzestan and bringing in Persians from the Yazd province? Or that, when Iranian Arabs escape to Syria, the Syrian regime sends them back in a manner that violates the Geneva convention?
As is the case with much intergroup conflict, the level of bigotry often reaches incredible, rhetorical proportions. For example, a certain Assyrian website recently posted an article saying, "The Kurds as individuals, groups and leaders have proved that they carry the germ of treason and betrayal in their blood ..." And then there is Iran's disgusting and cruel competition for the best cartoon that mocks the Holocaust.
So, how much of this did you know about? The media doesn't really cover it, and the international community doesn't particularly care. If you hadn't heard, who could blame you?
Clearly, the singular focus upon the rivalry and conflict between Israel and Arabs regimes, and Jews and Muslims, is very narrow and stands in the way of regional development. As long as the international community pretends that the only social problems that exist in the Middle East are directly related to Israel, stagnation will find itself ruling much of the region for yet another century. When will the international community realize that no group really trusts any other group in the Middle East, and then start developing a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of the various ethnic groups across the board? I don't know what they are waiting for. Without a systemic approach to lower social tensions between the region's groups, resentment, suspicion, and rivalry will remain part and parcel of the region's status quo.