Courtesy Reuters

The Near East: the Search for Truth

BY THE Near East I mean the cradle of Western civilization. Take the fundamental generic components of that civilization and trace them back across the ages to their lands of origin, and there you have the Near East. Thus if no fundamental component can be shown to originate in a given country X, then X is not part of the Near East. The concept therefore is neither political, nor geopolitical, nor geographic, nor strategic: it is essentially cultural-genetic.

If a circle is drawn on the map with Beirut or Damascus or Jerusalem as its center and with a radius of about nine hundred miles, this circle will pretty nearly comprise the whole of the Near East. It will include the following ten cities: Athens, Istanbul, Antioch, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cairo and Mecca. Western civilization is an offshoot, in diverse modes of relevance, of what was revealed, apprehended, loved, suffered and enacted in these ten cities or in their hinterlands.[i]

This cultural-genetic relatedness between the Near East and the West has been the theme of wonder and reflection literally for thousands of years. Nobody forgets his origins, and so the Western world has never tired of brooding upon the great mystery of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean where it was born. Is it a pure myth entirely devoid of any significance that Europa was a lovely Phoenician princess who was carried off by no less a god than mighty Zeus himself?

The fact that malevolence abounds in the world and may misinterpret or misquote or distort what we say will not deter us from facing our situation in the Near East squarely and honestly. There is abroad in the Near East today a new critical spirit. It is dissatisfied with the given and is not afraid to voice its dissatisfaction. There is health and hope and freedom only in the daring knowledge and confession of the truth, whatever risks that may involve.

Our subject is not easy, not because

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