November 1, 2006
Piercing the Mystery of Hate: Why Arabs and Muslims Despise Jews and Israel
Dear Friend of FLAME:
this most significant article, Yair Lapid raises a question that, at least
in this form, I have never seen before. The question is, why do Arabs
and other Muslims really hate us (the Jews in general and the Israelis in
particular) so much? In the almost sixty years of Israel's existence,
the super-rich Islamic countries could have performed miracles in bringing
their Palestinian brethren to happiness and prosperity. (Just last
year Israel abandoned Gaza, leaving an infrastructure of thriving farms and
factories in place, but rather than exploit these resources, the Palestinians
trashed them in wanton, spiteful anger.) This folly started in 1948,
when the Arabs were offered a state alongside the newly formed Jewish state,
but rejected it and opted instead to wage war---a war that is still going
on in undiminished ferocity. One can perhaps understand that the Palestinian
Arabs have a resentment against Israel, but what about all the other Arab
and Islamic states? Most of these countries lay very far away, prominently
among them Iran, yet they still nurture a fanatical hatred and undiminished
hatred against Jews and Israel, to the point of flirting with self-destruction. Perhaps
the conundrum is similar to trying to explain the source of Nazi anti-Semitism---a
challenge many have approached, but none has adequately conquered. It's
like trying to rationalize hate itself. This article, by Israeli journalist
author and talk show host (and son of Israeli politician Tommy Lapid), seeks
an answer to the question of Arab and Islamic anti-Semitism and sheds much
useful light on it. He may not give us the complete answer, but then how does
one explain the inexplicable, the completely irrational?
The Mystery of Hate
Hundreds of years of fighting, six and a half wars, billions of dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands of victims, not including the boy who laid down next to me on the rocky beach of Lake Karon in 1982 while we both watched his guts spilling out. The helicopter took him, and to this day I do not know whether he is dead or survived. All this, and one cannot figure it out.
And it's not only what happened, but all that did not happen—hospitals that were never built, universities that were never opened, roads that were never paved, the three years that were taken from millions of teenagers for the sake of the army. And despite all the above, we still do not have the beginning of a clue to the mystery of where it all started.
Why do they hate us so much?
I am not talking about the Palestinians this time. Their dispute with us is intimate, focused, and it has a direct effect on their lives. Without getting into the "which side is right" question, it is obvious that they have very personal reasons not to stand our presence here. We all know that eventually this is how it will be solved: In a personal way, between them and us, with blood, sweat and tears that will stain the pages of the agreement. Until then, it is a war that can at least be understood, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means that are used to run it by.
It is the others. Those I cannot understand. Why does Hassan Nasralla, along with tens of thousands of his supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, his country's destiny, to fight a country he has never even seen, people he has never really met and an army that he has no reason to fight?
Why do children in Iran, who can not even locate Israel on the map (especially because it is so small), burn its flag in the city center and offer to commit suicide for its elimination? Why do Egyptian and Jordanian intellectuals agitate the innocent and helpless against the peace agreements, even though they know that their failure will push their countries back 20 years? Why are the Syrians willing to remain a pathetic and depressed third world country, for the dubious right to finance terror organizations that will eventually threaten their own country's existence? Why do they hate us so much in Saudi-Arabia? In Iraq? In Sudan? What have we done to them? How are we even relevant to their lives? What do they know about us? Why do they hate us so much in Afghanistan? They don't have anything to eat there, where do they get the energy to hate?
Jews are the least of their problems
This question has so many answers and yet it is a mystery. It is true that it is a religious matter, but even religious people make their choices. The Koran (along with the Shariaa—the Muslim parallel to the Jewish Halacha) consists of thousands of laws—why is it that we occupy them so much?
There are so many countries who have given them much better reasons to be angry. We did not start the crusades, we did not rule them during the colonial period, we never tried to convert them. The Mongolians, the Seljuk, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British, they all conquered, ruined and plundered the whole region. We did not even try . . . so how did we become the enemy?
And if it is identification with their Palestinians brothers, then where are the Saudi Arabian tractors building up the territories that were evacuated? What happened to the Indonesian delegation building a school in Gaza strip? Where are the Kuwaiti doctors with their modern surgical equipment? There are so many ways to love your brothers—why do they all prefer to help their brothers with hating?
The smallest, most irritating footprint in the Middle East
Is it something that we do? Fifteen hundreds years of anti-Semitism taught us—in the most painful way possible—that there is something about us that irritates the world. So, we did the thing everyone wanted: we got up and left. We have established our own tiny little country, where we can irritate ourselves without interrupting others. We didn't even ask a lot for it. Israel is spread on a smaller territory than 1% of the territory of Saudi Arabia, with no oil, no minerals, without settling on another existing state's territory. Most of the cities that were bombed [by Hezbollah] were not plundered from anyone. Nahariya, Afula, and Karmiel did not even exist until we established them. The other katyusas landed on territories over which no one ever questioned our right. In Haifa there were Jews as early as the 3rd century BC, and Tiberias was the place where the last Sanhedrin sat, so no one can claim we plundered them from anyone.
However, the hatred continues. As if no other destiny is possible. Active hatred, poisoned, unstoppable. Last Saturday the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called again "to act for the vanishing of Israel" as if we were bacteria. We've gotten so used to it that we don't even ask why.
Israel does not hope and never did hope for Iran to vanish. As long as they wanted, we had diplomatic relations with them. We do not have a common border with them or even any bad memories. And still, they are willing to confront the whole western world, to risk a commercial boycott, to hurt their own quality of life, to crush what's left of their economy and all that for the right to passionately hate us.
Islam's greatest problem?
I am trying to remember and cannot: Have we ever done something to them? When? How? Why did Ahmadinejad say in his speech that "Israel is the main problem of the Muslim world"?—more than a billion people living in the Muslim world, most of them in horrible conditions. They suffer from hunger, poverty, ignorance, bloodshed that spreads from Kashmir to Kurdistan, from dying Darfur to injured Bangladesh. How come we are the main problem? How exactly are we in their way?
I refuse to accept the argument that claims "that is just the way they are." They've said it about us so many times that we have learned to accept this expression. There must be another reason, some dark secret that because of it, the citizens of South Lebanon allowed their quiet border to be disturbed, the kidnapping of soldiers of an army that has already retreated from their territory, the transformation of their country into a wasteland at precisely the time they finally escaped twenty years of disasters.
We've gotten used to feeding ourselves worn expressions: "It's the Iranian influence," or "Syria is stirring things up behind the scenes"—but this is just too easy explanation. Because what about them?
What about their thoughts?