By Norman Podhoretz, September 20, 2001
Is American support of Israel behind the hatred of this country that pervades
the Arab world and that literally exploded into the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon on Sept. 11? Certainly this is what many in Europe believe.
Yet, remarkably, within the Arab worlds itself, there has been less emphasis on
Israel as the root cause of the attacks than might have been anticipated. To be
sure, one of the great “crimes” of America in Arab eyes remains its support of
Nor is there any doubt from what they say to one another in Arabic (as
opposed to what their diplomats say in English, French or German) that wiping
Israel off the face of the map is still one of the major hopes of Arabs
everywhere — and of most non-Arab Middle Eastern Muslims like the Iranians as
But only about two weeks before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, Ab’d Al-Mun’im Murad, a columnist in Al-Akhbar, a
daily newspaper sponsored by the Egyptian government, wrote:
“The conflict that we call the Arab-Israeli conflict is, in truth an Arab
conflict with Western, and particularly American, colonialism. The U.S. treats
as it treated the slaves inside the American continent. To this end,
is helped by the smaller enemy, and I mean Israel.”
And in another column, also published in late August, Mr. Murad gave us
an inkling of what he had in mind for America:
“The Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor, must be destroyed. The age
of the American collapse has begun.”
If this is the kind of thing we get from an Arab country that everyone regards
as “moderate,” in radical states like Iraq and Iran, nothing less than identifying
America as the “Great Satan” will suffice.
As for the Palestinians, their contempt for America is hardly exceeded by
their loathing of Israel. For example, the mufti — or chief cleric — appointed by
the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat has prayed that God will “destroy
America,” while the editor of a leading Palestinian journal has proclaimed: The
American “murderers of humanity, the creators of the barbaric culture and the
bloodsuckers of nations, are doomed to death.”
The point is that if Israel had never come into existence, or if it were magically
to disappear, the United States would still stand as an embodiment of
everything that most of these Arabs consider evil.
Indeed, the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for
anti-Americanism. Israel is regarded as the spearhead of the American drive for
domination over the Middle East — the ‘little enemy,’ the ‘Little Satan.’
We have all been repeatedly instructed in the past few days that suicide
bombing, whether in Jerusalem or New York, represents a perversion of Islam
fostered by a tiny minority of fundamentalists. This may well be so.
Yet it is also true that exhortations to, and celebrations of, this tactic by
leading Muslim clerics in the Middle East have for some time now drowned out
the few lonely protests against it.
Nor is it only against Israel that suicide bombings have been incited and wildly
applauded. Only last November, for instance, one of the official Palestinian
Authority newspapers reported the results of a poll in which 73% of
Palestinians supported “suicide missions against American interests in the
Is it any wonder, then, that there was rejoicing among the Palestinians over the
attacks “against American interests” in America itself?
Is it any wonder that so many youngsters were dancing in the streets of
East Jerusalem and Ramallah, when in textbooks published by the Palestinian
Authority’s Ministry of Education, and in use this very school year,
seventh-graders were being taught that Islam “will defeat all other religions and
it will be disseminated, by Allah’s will, through the Muslim jihad
So, too, 11th-graders were taught that Western civilization “has begun
to collapse and to become a pile of rubble.” A pile of rubble: the sight of the
World Trade Center reduced to endless tons of debris must have seemed the
fulfillment of a prophecy to young minds poisoned by such teachings.
Even before September 11, there was something repellent about the continual
exhortations to “restraint” oozing unctuously out of our State Department
whenever Israel responded with any degree of force to suicide bombings and
other attacks on its territory or its people. But now the United States, having
experienced at firsthand what Israel has been going through, has rightly
declared war not only against individual terrorists but also the groups or states
that harbor or nourish or encourage them.
At such a time, it is quite simply bizarre that Secretary of State Colin Powell
should be pressing the Israelis to meet with Yasser Arafat, who has been, and
still is, guilty of everything we have now pledged ourselves to extirpate. A
veteran terrorist himself, he is also the leader of one terrorist group and has
given aid and shelter to others.
Thus Hamas, an openly terrorist organization that acts with Arafat’s
approval from territory he controls, declared in its weekly publication after the
attacks on New York and Washington: “Allah has answered our prayers; the
sword of vengeance has reached America, and will strike again and again.”
What will the State Department come up with next? A proposal that American
diplomats sit down with Osama bin Laden?
After all, he denies having been responsible for the attacks on us, just as
Arafat denies that he is behind the outbreak of terrorism which has been his
response to a recklessly generous Israeli offer last year of terms for a peaceful
settlement with the Palestinians. Having signed a piece of paper in 1993 in
which he promised to eschew violence, Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace
Why not get bin Laden to make the same promise, and then give him the
Nobel Peace Prize too?
The absurdity of the State Department’s position on Arafat is compounded by
its efforts to build a coalition against terrorism that will include some of the very
states — especially Syria and Iran — against which we have in effect declared
war for harboring and sponsoring this evil (in their case it is the Hezbollah,
which almost certainly was connected with the 1983 bombing of the U.S.
Marine barracks in Beirut and of American embassies in Africa in 1998).
Evidently the idea is to make them change their policy. Yet given the
enormous popularity of terrorism among their own peoples, the leaders of these
countries are highly unlikely to act against this scourge, even assuming — and
with many, it is a very shaky assumption — they actually wish to do so.
President Bush’s father needed a coalition to expel Iraq from Kuwait, partly
because there was so much opposition at home to Desert Storm. But “Little
Bush,” as he is mockingly characterized by some in the Arabic press, has the
country solidly behind him, and the only possible justification for the coalition
Mr. Powell envisages is to get staging areas and overflight rights in the region
for military operations. Hence courting Pakistan and offering it incentives at
least makes some sense.
But no comparable justification can be jiggered up for pursuing the
Syrians or the Palestinians or the Iranians, who are among those we should be
punishing instead of wooing.
Finally, it would be both immoral and stupid of this administration to exclude
Israel as a major ally in the war against terrorism. The president’s father
prevented the Israelis from participating in Desert Storm (even after the Syrians,
of all governments, acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself against the
Scud missiles Saddam Hussein was firing at it).
In thus excluding Israel, the elder Mr. Bush forfeited what we now know
would have been an invaluable military asset in locating and destroying those
same Scuds that were being fired at American troops in Saudi Arabia.
If George W. Bush were to repeat this egregious error, he would risk losing an
equally invaluable asset in the new kind of war into which we have entered —
namely, the intelligence capabilities and the expertise of the country that has
experienced more terrorism than any other.
Clarity of purpose cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral clarity; and
in this situation, what clarity reveals is that we Americans are in the same boat
as the Israelis. But what is harder for us to grasp is that, just as the fervent
wish of the Arab world to wipe the Jewish state off the map derives not from
anything Israel has done or failed to do, but rather from its existence alone, so
we are hated not because of our policies but because of who and what we are.
A Palestinian textbook sums up one item of the indictment: “Western
civilization – deprived man of his peace of mind, stability and noble human
examples – when it turned material well-being into the exemplary goal, his
money leading him nowhere, except to suicide.”
True, the Arabs accuse us of all manner of horrible crimes. But as someone
recently said, what really arouses their enmity is not what we have done wrong
but what we have done right.
To them our democratic polity, and the freedoms that go with it, are as
corrupting as our economic system.
They want to destroy all this, first in the Middle East itself, and then in
as much of the world as they can, so that the way of life they believe is
commanded by Allah can rise up again in all its sacred purity from out of the