There are a few things I believe about the Israel/Palestinian situation and people’s reaction to it:
1. The roots of the dispute are in the soil of religion, not territory or politics.
2. The above is evidenced by the historic and sworn statements of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the profound and pervasive antisemitism of Arab countries—itself seen daily in their public media.
3. Western liberals are willing to overlook Arab antisemitism to concentrate entirely on the faults of Israel (and I grant that there are some of those), faults which do not include state-endorsed anti-Islamic propaganda. This double standard reflects, I think, some antisemitism itself.
I’ve highlighted on several occasions antisemitic statements in Arab public media—statements far more vile than the infamous Danish anti-Islamic cartoons. But few seem to care about the religious hatred behind Arab propaganda or the tendency of Westerners to ignore this religious bigotry.
My first two conclusions are supported by Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new Op-Ed in the New York Times, “Raised on hatred,” which highlights the stream of anti-Semitic venom flowing daily into Arab homes. She should know, for she grew up immersed in it. Her editorial was prompted by Mohamed Morsi’s two-year-old ravings about the Jews that have recently become public.
As a child growing up in a Muslim family, I constantly heard my mother, other relatives and neighbors wish for the death of Jews, who were considered our darkest enemy. Our religious tutors and the preachers in our mosques set aside extra time to pray for the destruction of Jews.
For far too long the pervasive Middle Eastern qualification of Jews as murderers and bloodsuckers was dismissed in the West as extreme views expressed by radical fringe groups. But they are not. In truth, those Muslims who think of Jews as friends and fellow human beings with a right to their own state are a minority, and are under intense pressure to change their minds.
All over the Middle East, hatred for Jews and Zionists can be found in textbooks for children as young as three, complete with illustrations of Jews with monster-like qualities. Mainstream educational television programs are consistently anti-Semitic. In songs, books, newspaper articles and blogs, Jews are variously compared to pigs, donkeys, rats and cockroaches, and also to vampires and a host of other imaginary creatures.
Consider this infamous dialogue between a three-year-old and a television presenter, eight years before Morsi’s remarks.
Presenter: “Do you like Jews?”
“Why don’t you like them?”
“Jews are apes and pigs.”
“Who said this?”
“Where did he say this?”
“In the Koran.”
The presenter responds approvingly: “No [parents] could wish for Allah to give them a more believing girl than she … May Allah bless her, her father and mother.”
This conversation was not caught on hidden camera or taped by propagandists. It was featured on a prominent program called “Muslim Woman Magazine” and broadcast by Iqraa, the popular Saudi-owned satellite channel.
Can anyone doubt that if a similar antisemitic conversation took place on American television, or something equally anti-Muslim was shown on Israeli television, there would be worldwide howls of protest? Of course there would be. But it’s convenient to ignore this vile invective when it’s shown on an Arab station.
I’ll add just a few more facts adduced by Ali:
Millions of Muslims have been conditioned to regard Jews not only as the enemies of Palestine but as the enemies of all Muslims, of God and of all humanity. Arab leaders far more prominent and influential than Morsi have been tireless in “educating” or “nursing” generations to believe that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.” (These are the words of the Saudi sheik Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam at the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca.)
In 2011, a Pew survey found that in Turkey, just 4 percent of those surveyed held a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Jews; in Indonesia, 10 percent; in Pakistan 2 percent. In addition, 95 percent of Jordanians, 94 percent of Egyptians and 95 percent of Lebanese hold a “very unfavorable” view of Jews [pdf].
I don’t like religion, but I’d never call Christians, Jews, or Muslims apes and pigs. What baffles me is that liberals who would never countenance antisemitism in the West turn their heads away when it takes place in the Middle East.