Friday, January 03, 2003

Little Green Footballs has an account by Josh Kraushaar about a Muslim school in Potomac, Maryland. Take note of this section:
Almost no matter what they were asked, the students' answers often included something about how the United States should focus not just on bin Laden's terror network but on "the real terrorists," which is their code for Israel, which they refer to as "the illegitimate Zionist regime." Whether questions were about patriotism or faith or the difficulty of maintaining Muslim practices in a society that embraces open sexuality, the teenagers' thoughtful answers somehow found their way back to bashing Israel.

In 1951, Eric Hoffer wrote a book called "The True Believer." The front-cover blurb on my copy reads "The highly provocative, best-selling analysis of the fanatic – a man compelled to join a cause, any cause – and a penetrating study of mass movements from early Christianity to modern nationalism and Communism." Needless to say, I've been referring to this book again and again since 9/11 to understand the mass movement of fanatical Islam.

At the heart of Hoffer's exposition is a section titled "Unifying Agents" – the reasons why people band together in a mass movement. The very first listed is "Hatred" with this opening sentence: "Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents." This is followed by this section:
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: "No…We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one." F.A. Voigt tells of a Japanese mission that arrived in Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought of the movement. He replied: "It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can't, because we haven't got any Jews."

The question here is whether Middle East governments are hostile to Israel because they are reflecting the sentiment of populace, or whether it is the policy of these governments to purposely foster hatred of the Jews to perpetuate their rule. Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at Princeton, certainly believes the latter. In a September 2002 opinion piece, he noted: "The conflict with Israel certainly receives overwhelmingly major attention in the Arabic media, but since this is the only specific grievance that may be publicly expressed in a region of numerous and painful problems, that is hardly surprising. One may therefore wonder whether Middle Eastern governments would indeed wish for a peace settlement, which would deprive them of this valuable safety valve, leaving them to face the undeflected anger of their subjects, including those who live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. From the almost monotonous regularity with which a series of promising peace processes have failed at the moment when they seemed most likely to succeed, one may be driven to the conclusion that they prefer to keep the conflict unresolved, but at a low level--simmering not boiling, and usefully controllable." Also, in the conclusion of his piece titled "Time for Toppling", Lewis notes "….the dictatorships that rule much of the Middle East today will not, indeed cannot, make peace, because they need conflict to justify their tyrannical oppression of their own people, and to deflect their peoples' anger against an external enemy."

I won't dwell on this issue, but I might ask this hypothetical: what if Israel disappeared tomorrow? If Hoffer and Lewis are to be believed, the Islamofascists would surely turn all their vitriol onto the United States. Then, who knows, Canada, Great Britain, Australia (who already suffered through the Bali attack), Europe, Hollywood, baseball, Budweiser, jazz music, Pizza Hut – anything to divert attention from their own failed policies and their own brutal dictatorships.

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