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Arabs Have Never Accepted Israel

Arabs Have Never Accepted Israel

The latest attacks on Israel remind us that the attempt to destroy the Jewish state has gone on since it came into existence in 1948.


December 3, 2001 -- In June of this year, Palestinian television broadcast a sermon in a Gaza mosque in which the imam, Ibrahim Madi, made the following statement: "God willing, this unjust state [of] Israel, will be erased; this unjust state the United States will be erased; this unjust state Britain will be erased."

The sheik's gentle homily came to mind this weekend, when Palestinian suicide bombers launched nearly simultaneous attacks on Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Gaza, killing 26 and wounding nearly 200. If a reminder were needed that the war on terrorism goes beyond Sept. 11 and the campaign in Afghanistan, the Palestinians provided a powerful mnemonic. Even as U.S. and British forces respond to the World Trade Center atrocity by closing in on Kandahar, the last city under militant Islamic rule in Afghanistan, Israeli forces began preparing a response to the Jerusalem atrocity with a "frontal attack" against the Palestinian Authority.

The American and Israeli situations seem very different to some, but Sheik Madi's remarks show they are not. In both cases, the forces of militant Islam are targeting a Western country with the intention of destroying it. Osama bin Laden years ago declared a jihad against all Christians and Jews while his friend Mullah Omar, the Taliban dictator, provided more specifics in mid-November: "The current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause-that is the destruction of America. If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time -- keep in mind this prediction. The real matter is the extinction of America, and God willing, it will fall to the ground."

Cancerous Tumor

Likewise, with an almost numbing routineness, militant Islamic leaders call for the destruction of Israel. The most powerful of them all, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called sometime ago for "this cancerous tumor of a state [to] be removed from the region."

There are differences, to be sure. The battle against the United States is newer, far less advanced, and less supported by nonmilitant Islamic elements. Ironically, however, the U.S. government has declared a "war on terrorism," while its Israeli counterpart is still (with U.S. encouragement) trying to hammer out a deal with its enemies. These differences aside, the drive to destroy the United States and Israel are at base similar.

The latest attacks on Israel serve to remind us of something else too: that the attempt to destroy the Jewish state has gone on since it came into existence in 1948. For over a half century, the majority of Arabs have persisted in seeing Israel as no more than a temporary irritant, one they eventually expect to dispense with, at best permitting Israelis to live in "Palestine" as a subject people and at worst massacring them.

This destructive impulse has waxed and waned since 1948. When a seemingly weak Israel first came into existence, it started very high. Then 45 years of steadily losing to a tough and determined Israel left the Arabs reeling by 1993 and partially open to the possibility of accepting it. Rather than pushing this advantage to achieve full acceptance, the Israelis made the historic mistake of easing up and offering their two main enemies, the Syrians and Palestinians, an advantageous deal.

These offers completely backfired: rather than understood as far-sighted strategic concessions intended to close the conflict, Arabs interpreted them as signs of Israel's demoralization. The result was an upsurge in violence and renewed Arab hopes of destroying Israel through force of arms. For the first time since the 1960s, politicians, civil servants, religious leaders, journalists, and intellectuals routinely called for Israel's elimination.

Obviously, this wall of rejection harms Israel, denying its bid to live as a normal nation, subjecting its population to homicidal attacks, and compelling it to take tough steps against neighbors. But Israel is prospering despite these attacks, boasting of a high standard of living, a democratic body politic, and a vibrant culture. In fact, the real harm is felt primarily by Arabs. The destructive urge prevents talented and venerable peoples from achieving their potential. Arabs are focused on harming Israelis rather than improving their standards of living, opening the political process to all, and insuring the rule of law. The result is plain: Arabs are among the world leaders in percentages of dictatorships, rogue states, violent conflicts, and military spending.

The Arabs must reconcile themselves to Israel's existence.

A solution is easy to propose though much harder to implement: the Arabs must reconcile themselves to Israel's existence. Only that will close down the century-old conflict, permit Israel to attain normality, and launch Arabs on the path to modernity.

This interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which puts the onus on Arabs, differs profoundly from the usual one. Even Israelis, not to speak of Arabs and everyone else, tend to think that the Arab acceptance of Israel is already done and now it is up to Israel to do its part by making a series of concessions (handing over the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, etc.).

Inflamed Rhetoric

If it was possible to believe in the Arab acceptance of Israel in 1993, surely today's inflamed rhetoric and the drumbeat of Palestinian violence proves that it was a mirage. Israel has the unenviable task of convincing its enemies that their dreams of its destruction will fail; translated into action, this means it must show resolve and toughness. How can it be otherwise? Such lethal intentions as one finds widely in the Arabic-speaking countries can only be defeated with strength. This will not be pleasant; Israel will incur both foreign condemnation and domestic discontent, but it has no choice.

Understanding the conflict this new way has profound implications for the West. It means that Europe and the United States, always eager to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, can most helpfully do their part by offering fewer clever plans and making a greater effort to comprehend its basic truths. It means coming to terms with the basic fact of continued Arab rejection of Israel, with all its destructive implications. It means seeing the Israeli predicament, tolerating its need to be tough, and pressing the Arabs to make a drastic change in course.

For many governments, even the American one, this approach requires a reversal from current policy (which is to press Israel). Such a shift will not come easily, but it is a near-prerequisite for anyone truly serious about closing down the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe.

December 8, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 11

(10) Anonymous, December 25, 2001 12:00 AM

Excellent article

I just wish this could be required reading for everyone working at our Arabist State Department

(9) Anonymous, December 18, 2001 12:00 AM

Daniel Pipes tells it like it is. I lived in Israel 20 years, lost neighbors to 1986 Intifada, and saw that the only thing the Arabs understand is strength.

(8) Steve Jankelowitz, December 13, 2001 12:00 AM

Great article

Very true, I was recently in Dubai on a business trip, as a jew, was quite nervous whenever I introduced myself, but everything was fine, people were freindly (I didnt tell anyone that I was a jew, but from my name, expected them to know)

What spoke volumes to me was that even in the regional weather report in newspapers, Israel does not exist. This article is 100% correct, Israel is a temporary irritation to them, that they originally tried to destroy in a military way, and now in other ways.

(7) Bernard Seigle, December 13, 2001 12:00 AM

Israel post Arafat

Arafat history, I hope. I would suggest ISRAEL reaching out to people of the caliber of ABU AIA and SAID ARIKAT in pursuing PEACE

(6) JB, December 13, 2001 12:00 AM

The Fruit of Spiritual Focus

I came to the knowledge of this site and this specific article by a circuitous route. Along the way, I developed a perception that, in my mind, goes beyond specific denominational boundaries.

I see in the struggle between Israel and the Islamic nations pent on its destruction the outcome of spiritual focus. Israelis have been intent on survival and creation since 1948. The Islamic states have been increasingly focused on destroying Israel, and by its common philosophy of creativity, the United States. Those destructive states, by their focus, have brought on themselves an internally destructive society. The people, and therefore governments, are so intent on tearing others down, that they tear themselves down.

The ex-Soviet Union did the same thing. Notice the term *ex*. Islamic expansion came about centuries ago, not by a will to destroy, but a will to expand and build. By concentrating on the demise of others, these people are ensuring their own demise.

To me, this illustrates a course of action for those of us on the *creative* side of the struggle. Rather than wrap ourselves up in the bringing down of a people or thought process, we need to put our spiritual energy into building a tolerant and inclusive society. The preventive and precursive practices of Political Correctness; the prohibition of acknowledgement of dark regimes; these only serve to draw focus to the wrong objective. Defend, educate, share, understand each other, and the xenophobia of ignorance cannot hope to continue.

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