A friend in Saudi Arabia sent a note with the subject line above, about Bahrain, and asked that we protect his/her identity.
I have to tell you that the situation in Bahrain and the reaction of my fellow Sunni Saudi friends and relatives here to the unfolding events across the causeway has actually made me more pessimistic than ever regarding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How are they related? you may ask. Well... while the Israeli state and military's treatment of the Palestinians is definitely far worse than the treatment of the Bahraini state and military of their Shi'ite citizens so far, it is the reaction of the majority of Bahraini and Saudi Sunnis that I have found most alarming and depressing.
While I can't excuse it, I now better understand how and why 90% of Israelis are so terrified by the presence of a dirt-poor half starved Palestinian populace on their doorstep in Gaza that they wholeheartedly supported Operation Cast Lead and the resulting murder of over 1000 mainly unarmed civilian Palestinians. In a similar manner, ordinary putatively educated Sunni Saudis lined up behind the Bahrain government's violent suppression of Bahraini Shite demonstrators. While a few of my fellow Sunnis initially sympathized with the poor and jobless Shi'ite demonstrators, it did not take a lot of propaganda effort for the ruling elite or the "haves" in Bahrain to turn an economic struggle between haves and have-nots into a phantom Iranian inspired sectarian conspiracy to dominate all the Sunnis in the Gulf area. It seems that wherever you go, people subconsciously pick and choose the information they absorb into their minds, based on their preconceived belief systems.
Sunnis in Saudi Arabia who cheered on the Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemeni revolutions suddenly changed their minds when it came to their Shi'ite neighbors clamoring for equal rights. In that way, they are not different from Liberal American Jews who support South American leftist guerrilla movements and Black Liberation movements at home, but go silent or hostile when it comes to the Palestinian armed or even unarmed struggle.
Therefore, I am more pessimistic than ever that the Israelis will ever feel remorse or guilt for whatever cruelty the extremists among them mete out to the Palestinians. People will only change their minds when they are forced to. That means that the only way the Israelis will change their attitude toward the Palestinians is if they have absolutely no other choice.