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.
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
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?