The seeds of hatred.jpg

The seeds of hatred

ISRAELI TANKS and soldiers have entered Gaza to avenge the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid two weeks ago.

Palestinian militants have demanded the release of 1,000 male prisoners, in exchange for information about Corporal Shalit’s welfare – a demand Israel has rejected. Israel has launched air strikes against militant targets and infrastructure, prompting some commentators to criticise Israel’s “heavy handed” and “disproportionate” response.

Israel’s critics are usually on the far-left and far-right of the political spectrum – the anti-Zionists and anti-Semites respectively – not that the two are mutually exclusive.

The far-right has always hated Israel as an article of faith, and so their arguments can never be taken seriously. Israel’s left-wing critics, on the other hand, deserve more respect and scrutiny. They have always maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a territorial dispute. They insist that Israel should end the occupation, grant the right of return of refugees and agree to an independent Palestinian state. Only then, they argue, will the struggle end.

This argument is, at best, a half-truth. Visiting Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park between the mid 80s and mid 90s, I recall one particularly fiery pro-Palestinian orator, whose speeches were virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic. Never once did his audiences rebuke him for his hateful language and never once did the speaker in question distinguish between Jews, Israelis and Zionists. I remember the crowd laughing as the speaker defined the ‘problem’ thus, “Jew dogs came out of gas chambers and then stole Palestine”.

My hunch is that Israel will never be able to co-exist peacefully with her neighbours until her enemies’ mindset changes. Anti-Israeli indoctrination has now permeated too many Muslim minds for it to be resolved by a mere peace deal between the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships. The belief, widely held in the Middle East, that Israel is a client state of the United States, propped up by a slavishly supportive Zionist media and influential Jewish lobby, would still predominate, even if there were a settlement. So too would the false and pernicious belief that the Holocaust has been milked by Jews to win sympathy for Israel.

Above all, the fact that Israel is a Jewish state would still rankle, not only with Israel’s Arab neighbours, but also with the wider Muslim world.

There is scarce evidence that conflict resolution would diminish Arab and Muslim antipathy towards Israel. Recently, the American Pew Research Centre undertook a survey of international Muslim opinion entitled The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other. It interviewed Muslims in two groups of countries: six of them with long-standing, majority Muslim populations (Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey) and four in Western Europe with new, minority Muslim populations (France, Germany, Spain and the UK). The survey revealed alarming findings. In not one Muslim population did a majority believe that Arabs perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. In fact, in each, a majority viewed 9/11 as a hoax perpetrated by the United States or Israel. A mere 15 per cent of Muslims in Pakistan held Arabs responsible, compared to 48 per cent among French Muslims.

Only 16 per cent of Turkish citizens held Arabs responsible. So an overwhelming majority of Turks appear to believe that the official version of the attacks is a Zionist fabrication. This makes it likely that Turkey could well be a fertile recruiting ground for terrorism. More worrying is that millions of Turkish people will probably head for Western Europe if – or when – their country joins the European Union. Will politicians, particularly those in Britain, take note of the possible terrorist threat? Does the sun rise in the West?

The survey also revealed that many Muslims harboured anti-Semitic views. The findings revealed that 28 per cent of French Muslims had unfavourable opinions of Jews. The figure in Jordan was an overwhelming 98 per cent. In addition, Muslims in certain countries (particularly Egypt and Jordan) blamed Jews for the strained relations between Muslims and the West.

Nobody would deny that a resolution to the territorial dispute –the occupation and mutual recognition of rights – would diminish tensions. Neither would I deny that the Palestinians are entitled to be angry. But a resolution to the land question would not solve a greater problem, namely the conspiratorial and anti-Semitic mindset of the Muslim world.

The only way the Middle East will ultimately live in peace, is if the steady drip of anti-Western and anti-Semitic brainwashing ceases. That means eradicating the kind of propaganda that is so rampant in the Arab and Muslim world. This includes books such as the notorious forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – widely available in Arab bookstalls – and other material promoting conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. Conflict resolution is pointless unless it wins hearts and minds, and conquers the ideology of hate.

By Gabriel Hershman