On Nov. 6, guest commentator John K. Wilson asked in these pages, “Why do [Muslims] hate us?” It is an important question, but the answer Wilson provided was misleading.
In a limited sense, he was right. “For the past 50 years,” he noted, “the Israeli occupation of Palestine … has been the main reason for that intense hatred.” The reference to “50 years” of Israeli “occupation” underscores a troubling reality: the rejection of Israel’s very existence. That nation has only “occupied” the West Bank and Gaza for 37 years; Wilson, then, is deploring the emergence of modern Israel in any form.
But to better understand Muslim rejection of Israel – and more broadly, hatred of the West – Americans must look beyond the arguments of those who use Israel as a scapegoat, citing this or that Israeli policy. The campaigns of anti-Israeli and anti-Western Islamist incitement that accompany radical Islam make clear the actual roots of hatred. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist responsible for a rash of beheadings and bombings in Iraq, told his followers that the goal is to fight the Americans “until Islamic rule is back on Earth” (Associated Press, June 23). Similarly, in a ‘Letter to America’ written by Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist leader stated: “What are we calling you [Americans] to, and what do we want from you? The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam … It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme. … The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you. We call you … to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling’s, and trading with interest.” (The Observer, U.K., Nov. 24, 2002). Likewise, BBC reporter Jeremy Cooke has described summer schools run by the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad which “teach boys the benefits of becoming suicide bombers” in their quest for replacing Israel with an Islamic state (“School trains suicide bombers,” July 18, 2001). When teachers at Hamas kindergartens in Gaza ask their 5-year-old pupils what they should do to the Jews, the children cry out in unison, “Kill them!” (San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 2002).
Whether its source is Iraqi mosques or Palestinian schools, hate education – spread by those who see Islam not as a religion of peace but as a violent truimphalist religion driven to eradicate all others – is the reason they hate us.
At the same time, there are some positive signs, including reports that Mahmoud Abbas, the new head of the PLO, has instructed the Palestinian media to halt anti-Israeli incitement. If this actually happens, the new generation of Palestinians growing up may no longer see suicide and murder as noble goals. If the new Iraqi government can similarly prevent calls to violence against Americans, we will be one step closer to the end of anti-American hatred. The same curbing of anti-American and anti-Israeli invective should extend to Saudi, Pakistani, Egyptian and Syrian institutions, as well as mosques and schools in the U.S., Europe, South Asia and throughout all the Middle East.
Instead of acknowledging such realities, John K. Wilson distracted from them with false information. Seeking to blame Israeli actions for Middle East turbulence, he wrongly claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was found by an Israeli commission of inquiry to be personally responsible for the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon. In fact, Sharon was faulted only for “having disregarded the danger” posed by the those who conducted the massacre: Lebanese Christians who sought revenge for massacres of their own people by Palestinians. The commission actually concluded that “absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acted in its behalf.”
Wilson was also wrong in alleging that Sharon cannot travel to Belgium because he would be tried for war crimes. The unwarranted complaints against Sharon, like similar charges against the first President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, were dismissed by Belgium’s high court.
To understand the root of anti-Western animosity, it is essential to avoid such baseless blaming. Instead of shying away from identifying the aggressor by pointing a finger at Israel and the West, victims of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, Americans will be safer if the facts are told fully and candidly.
Gilead Ini is a research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (www.camera.org), a national media-monitoring organization headquartered in Boston, MA.