Rather than scrutinizing the Middle East -- where the dream of peace that we so tirelessly hope for keeps evaporating again and again -- we prefer to picture a scenario in which everyone will, in the end, want peace; in which the extremism of the Middle East is only a fantasy dictated by fear, and in which the menace of extremism is called a mere exaggeration.

This clearly springs from the desire to be left in peace -- the same syndrome that convinces us to consider figures like Tarik Ramadan a "moderate Islamist," or to class as a "dialogue between religions" a situation in which, quietly in London, the Islamic courts are gaining ground. We merely shake our heads when we hear that the most popular name in many European countries is now Mohammed, or that the burqa is permitted in the name of multiculturalism; or that over 200,000 people in Paris alone now live in polygamous families.

We subject the real dangers of war to censorship, as with Iran and its quest for a nuclear bomb, its solidifying international hegemony and its attitude towards the rights of women, homosexuals, dissidents and freedom in general, all of which violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The international community still insists on believing that dialogue is possible with Ahmadinejad, whom we have repeatedly heard in the platform of the United Nations inciting the President of the United States to convert to Islam, and declaring his intention to kill all the Jews and extend the dominion of Islam throughout the world. In a month's time, the meeting between Iran and the 5 + 1 group will convene yet again, even though the Iran, with its recent waves of arrests and purges, shows signs of rallying around the atomic project. No one even attempted to help the opposition after the fake election results last year, even though the opposition's size is unquestionable, as millions of people have been desperately demonstrating in Iran's city squares for months.

The USA has remained silent even in the face of the Iranian war-games in the Strait of Hormuz; clear evidence that Iran has extended its war front in Afghanistan; the fact that Iran has prevented the pro-American faction that won the elections in Iraq from forming a government; that Iran imposed the reinstatement of the Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki; and that Iran has made conspicuous investments in South America to foment an attitude -- now extremist -- and foster Anti-Semitic hate, of which President Chavez of Venezuela is an example.

Iran is frightening, and this is why it is allowed to continue its advance undeterred, frightening us more and more as a result. And this deceptive judgment is enabling Iran to spread its influence to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and to the Palestinians, as well as to South America.

With the Palestinians, the idea that we like to convey is that of a world in which Fatah, in opposition to Hamas, is amenable to achieving peace through a partition plan that would enable "two States for two Peoples." But this is far from reality: all the most recent statements, including those of a few days ago in which Abu Mazen declared that there would be no room in a Palestinian state for even a single Israeli, or that of his chief negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat, according to whom there would be an inevitable "return" of 7,000,000 refugees – or their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – inside the borders of Israel, which has precisely 7,000,000 inhabitants, including the Arabs; or the declared Palestinian lack of willingness to negotiate land-swaps or to recognize the existence of a Jewish State -- all these are in keeping with what is perhaps the most dramatic rejection of peace: the culture of hate and terrorism which the TV, the press and the Palestinian schools disseminate. Squares bearing the names of suicide terrorists; the Fatah congress opening with standing ovations for the suicide terrorists;, the "study" on the Palestinian Authority website of a Vice-Minister of Culture, who declares that there has never been any trace of Jews in Jerusalem; or the invention of a Palestinian Jesus persecuted by the Jews at a time when the concept of "Palestinians" did not even exist... perhaps all these truths, together with the weakness of Abu Mazen who now wields his power with substantial use of the police force while Hamas threatens him from afar, should remind us that a peaceful end of conflict with Israel might not be a priority.

Turkey, which is also the site of the upcoming meeting of the 5 + 1 group, continues to be, in the collective imagination, the country that has played the role of mediator between the West and Islam ever since the time of the revolution of Kemal Atatürk eighty years ago. The truth is that the secular revolution has been shelved to give way to an Islamist drift in which what wins is an alliance with Iran. The alliance with Syria, a country with which countless commercial and military treaties have been signed -- including Hamas, with which Turkey's Foreign Minister Davutoglu met last July -- clearly reveals the path chosen by Turkey. Its political attitude is now overtly pro-Islamic, and it has transformed its anti-Israel policy into a political flag. Last week, as the ship the Mavi Marmara was returning from its ill-fated mission to Gaza, it was greeted at the port by a crowd shouting "death to Israel" -- an attitude in line with the repeated verbal attacks on the Jewish State by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including those attacks earlier in the year against Israel's president, Shimon Peres, at the Davos Conference in Switzerland.

As far as Syria is concerned, we like to think of it as a country that does not yet know which side to take, and in which we hope, in the end, that common sense will prevail, causing it to abandon the Iranian axis. US Secretary if State Hillary Clinton has reinstated the ambassadorship in Damascus, appointing Robert Ford, in the hope of influencing Syria's Bashar Assad. But Assad, unperturbed, keeps on in his merry way: continuous threats of war, intensive re-arming, a strategic summit in which, in the presence of Ahmadinejad – the guest of honor – both the supreme head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, and, exceptionally, the head of Hezbollah, Nasrallah, all met up with Syrians and Iranians. There has been no change of route: Syria has distinguished itself for the re-arming of Hezbollah which possesses more than 30 thousand missiles; for its aid to Hamas which now has missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv, and for its battle alongside Hezbollah to prevent the International Court from publicizing the result of an investigation attesting to the guilt of the Lebanese Shiite militia in the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.

This is the tragedy of Lebanon: we keep telling ourselves that in an eclectic and pluralist Lebanon, there is only one interfering force, represented by Hezbollah, and that aiding the government and the Lebanese army will help keep this force under control. The truth is that Hezbollah is the dominant force in Lebanese politics: it holds Lebanon for ransom both by threatening to drag it into a new war, and by threatening a bloody internal revolt. Hezbollah has already proven itself to be capable of doing both; and both the army, burdened by the Shi'ite component, and the Government, which fears the discoveries of the International Court, are hesitant to oppose the Iranian power which, through Hezbollah, has taken possession of the country.

Note: Originally published in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale, December 30, 2010

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