Rants and Raves

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Damn good question

I received this as a forward from a friend, so this is kind of a third-hand post. This is not my usual practice, but I'm putting it up on my blog because it's a damn good question.

I understand a lot about hate. It's been a motivating fact of history for quite some time after all. What I don't, cannot, understand is the kind of hate that would cause a people to immolate their own children for a chance at doing some harm to their enemy which is in no way decisive of the ultimate outcome.

What I do know is this: you cannot bargain with this kind of hate, cannot appease it, and cannot keep it at arms length and ignore it.

And just one caveat. I don't buy a two-thousand-year-old claim to territory. Sorry, but it's not like stepping out for a beer and coming home to find squatters in your home. During this length of time, whole nations have risen, fallen, and moved from one place to another. Putting it all back in place is neither possible nor desirable.

There was a time, back when it was still unpopular to do so, that I argued that Israel's claim to their present territory rested on spurious reasoning.

Now that anti-Semitism is again chic on the Left, I haven't changed my opinion. I just don't give a damn anymore.

Hi all,

For those of you who don't remember, my name is David Bryn, from
Israel, and I participated in the Erasmus exchange program on the
fall semester of 2005. As most of you probably know we have a war
going on in our area. The point of this email is not to open a
discussion about which side is right or wrong.

About two weeks ago, an Israeli publicist by the name of Yair Lapid
published his weekly column. After reading his column, I decided to
translate and send it to all my friends outside of Israel, since I
think it sheds a little light about our feelings here as Israelis
in the wild Middle East.

I would be more than thankful if you would forward this email to
everyone you know.


The Mystery of Hate by Yair Lapid

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 and we both watched his guts spilling out. The helicopter took
him and until this day I do not know whether he is dead or
survived. All this, and one cannot figure it out.

And its 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 could 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 20 years back? Why are the
Syrians willing to stay 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

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 gave 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 come we are 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

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
this week 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 with regards to them. In Haifa there were Jews already in
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 got used to it so
much that we don't even ask why.

Israel does not hope and never did 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.

I am trying to remember and cannot: have we ever done something to
them? When? How? Why did he 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 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 allow to
rouse the quiet border, to kidnap the soldiers of an army that has
already retreated from their territory, to turn their country into
a wasteland exactly at the time they finally escaped twenty years
of disasters.

We got used to telling ourselves worn expressions - "it's the
Iranian influence", or "Syria is stirring behind the scenes" - but
it is just too easy explanation. Because what about them?

What about their thoughts? What about their hopes, loves, ambitions
and their dreams? What about their children? When they send their
children to die, does it seem enough for them to say that it was
all worth while just because they hate us so much?


  • At 9:00 AM, Blogger gun-totin-wacko said…

    The answer "Why do they hate us?" would seem, in my mind to come down to "because we're infidels".

    Still waiting for a better answer.

  • At 10:39 AM, Blogger Saint in Exile said…

    Sometimes I wonder if we are only hearing a vocal minority and assuming them to be representative of the Palestinians, in much the same way that the media only hears the vocal minority of Jesse Jackson and al-Sharpton supporters here in this country and assume that they speak for all blacks.

    I spent nearly 3 years in Iraq and grew to like Iraqis. Polite, family-oriented, and so generous in spite of their abject poverty that it is embarassing. However, coming home and reading how many people write about Muslims as one homogenous entity that is characterized by hatred for the west and a fanatical obsession with suicide - that was surprising after getting to know so many Iraqis.

    I actually hope that is what is going on with the Palestinians. Hopefully we're just very badly informed. Otherwise, if we've got an accurate picture of what they're like, then they're too far gone.

  • At 3:39 PM, Blogger James A. Donald said…

    Response on Jim's blog
    Yair Lapid irritatingly whines “why do they hate us?”, “us” being in this case the Jews, though it could equally well be any group that is economically successful and reluctant to murder innocents.

  • At 4:58 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    Hate is an integral part of fanaticism; the belief of something for no reason other than to use it to control and coerce people.
    It is by no means exclusive to Islam, as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have proven to the professing church lately, and countless alleged "leaders" of it have proven through various persecutions and Inquisition through the centuries.
    Nor is fanaticism limited to the realms of religion, as Pol Pot, Hitler and other political despots have shown.
    No, there is no reason to the hatred: It is the same old, tired, recycled mentality of tyrants, briefly stated as "I'm playing God, and you will bow or burn!!!"
    It is alive and well in places of alleged authority now as ever. The only appropriate response is - at minimum - civil disobedience.
    "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglass

  • At 4:52 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    You know Saint, I wonder about that myself. In spite of the godawful boredom and frustration of living in Saudi Arabia, I found Saudis to be warm, friendly and generous to a fault.

    (Funny thing, I told my students some of Texan jokes, the "You paid for the lunch, I'll pay for the cadillacs" classic among others. They said, "Oh, they're like Saudis."

    I think our parents' generation had something of the same puzzlement in the occupation of Japan.

  • At 4:15 AM, Blogger Jabo said…

    Ah, Yair Lapid intoning on the situation. I wonder if he was sucking his cheeks together and cocking an eyebrow when he wrote that. (David Brinn, on the other hand, does very good work.)

    Why do they hate us? My initial impulse is: Who cares why.

    But that's a little facile.

    In the Jewish case, they hate because it's a part of the theology and ethics of Islam. Hatred of Jews, incitement to the murder of Jews, is in the Koran, the Hadiths. It forms the core of the Dhimma. It's all over Islamic jurisprudence and politics. It's structural.

    Why is this the case, though? Who knows. Perhaps it's related to the fact that Islam had to eradicate the religion that it took its entire theology and ethical system from. Maybe it was a matter of competing with historical and sociological threats. It's a big question.

    People, generally on the left, fire back that "Jews and Muslims lived in peace together for hundreds of years." Yeah, when the Muslims were in control of the places the Jews and Muslims were living happily together. Never mind that Jews were forbidden to build or even restore synagogues. That they had to pay tax for being Jews. That they had to dismount pack animals when a Muslim passed. That they couldn't testify against a Muslim, while any Muslim could indict a Jew.

    What does it mean to treat a Jew well, to get along with him, when you're grinding him to dust as a people?

    None of this is interesting to me any more, to be honest. I am not a Muslim and any claim that I don't sufficiently "understand" Islam and Muslim life is valid. I've spent time in Muslim countries and regions and, like some of the other commenters, have found them to be very nice people. I have also met some of these very nice people who have invited me to their homes and, later, admitted they would not hesitate for a second if they happened to see me sitting at a cafe they were about to bomb or attack.

    The more interesting question-- the much more interesting question-- is why are people like Yair Lapid still scratching their heads on drying their own tears as they wail, "Why do they hate us?" Isn't a much more relevant question, "what are we going to do about it?"

    The most dangerous of Lapid's claims, however, is that Palestinians are different from the world-wide mass of Islamic hatred. Lapid forgets, or never knew, that the PLO was formed 3 years before any Israeli occupation. He discards the fact that Arab terrorism from areas now considered Palestine began in the 1920s and targeted children in schools, even then. He's flippant about the fact that the PLO's emblem shows the colors of Palestine striped above the entirety of Israel (that's filled in green).

    Maybe "Palestine" was at one point a national movement, to at least some segment of people. Today, that cannot be the case.

  • At 6:46 PM, Blogger Paardestaart said…

    Naipaul writes somewhere that the typical muslem-resentment might have something to do with the fact that most arab children experience being replaced in the affections of their father, if and when a second or a third woman comes into the house.

    But why the jews?

    I always think the story of Ishmael is very striking.. The anguish and hatred of the lesser child, for being driven away with his mother, out into the desert
    It seems an uncanny explanatory metaphor for the character of Mohammed: Jealous, grandiose, vindictive, egocentric and greedy.

    He had to be 'the seal of the prophets', and his teaching had to be the one to top the religions that came earlier..

    Ismael..the beggar child, with his people as numerous as grains of sand in the desert.
    And the descendants of the other son who got to be the Jews..the chosen..

  • At 6:31 PM, Blogger jack Glasner said…

    First and foremost: let's stand tall instead of trying to analyze why THEY hate us; Frankly speaking I don't give a 'darn' . They didn't like us in Europe, and told us to go to Palestine...we did,, lo and behold THEY, even our so called friends recently said (C.Rice) that we over-reacted.....How do you fight an enemy...do you compare weapons first....did the Allied in WWII over-react by bombing Germany?)
    .Those who came from around the region be it Jordan Algiers Morocco started to call themselves Palestinians....Who are those Palestinians? There never was a government, a culture, a language called Palestinian. Palestine is a region, just like Siberia...and only after the Jews arrived in masses, this track of land became the leitmotif of envy...
    This track of land was divided by the UN...we agreed...THEY went to war. And lost .and now they are weeping...killing launching missiles...and some of us ask why?
    This last point is a tragic one...
    I says...when push comes to shove, we again will be alone...but this time we will not go naked to the crematoriums, or burned in Spanish cities, or murdered by the Crusaders
    We will fight, and I will be among those who fight and will not ask why they hate us.

    .We Jews have more Nobel winner than all the Moslem) there is over a Billion Moslem in the world. Our medical entrepreneurs are second to none in the Middle East.
    Now to the Beef of your question. They hate us in Europe 1) it is obvious , for Political reason. It always is a safe way to rouse the masses by pointing to any minority, call them what you will…
    ..if we would disappear they would be in trouble 2) hatred is based on envy or a means to transfer attention of malcontent poverty ignorance from one facade to another....We Jews help each other. Those in Gaza are helped with bullets instead of butter.
    So to you David...think before you talk
    Cordially Jack Glasner


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