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Arabs Still Want to Destroy Israel

Arabs Still Want to Destroy Israel

The latest terrorist attack in Israel reminds us that while Militant Islamic rule in Afghanistan may be history, militant Islam is not.


January 18, 2002 -- Last June, Palestinian television broadcast a sermon in a Gaza mosque in which the imam, Ibrahim Madi, made the following statement: "God willing, this unjust state Israel will be erased; this unjust state the United States will be erased; this unjust state Britain will be erased."

The sheikh's gentle homily comes again to mind as Palestinians' efforts to build their arsenal and persistent attacks on Israeli civilians have again been exposed of late. The most recent assault was at a ballroom last Thursday night, when a Palestinian used hand grenades to kill six and wound more than thirty Israelis, a much smaller number than would have been the case had the explosives on the terrorist's body gone off as intended.

And while the American and Israeli situations might seem completely different, Sheikh Madi's remarks remind us that the forces of militant Islam see them as akin. So if a reminder is needed that the war on terrorism goes beyond the campaign in Afghanistan, the Palestinians offer a powerful mnemonic. Militant Islamic rule in Afghanistan may be history but militant Islam is not.

The attempt to destroy the Jewish state has gone on since it came into existence in 1948.

Osama bin Laden years ago declared a jihad against all Christians and Jews while his friend Mullah Omar, the Taliban dictator, talked publicly about "the destruction of America," which he hoped would happen "within a short period of time." That militant Islamic leaders wish the same for Israel should hardly be news. The most powerful of them all, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently called for "this cancerous tumor of a state be removed from the region."

There are differences in the situations, to be sure. The jihad against the U.S. is newer, less advanced, and less supported by non-militant Islamic elements. But especially now, as the U.S. has formally declared war on terrorism, the common cause of the two states is growing.

As far as being target goes, Israel is a bit further along the learning curve. 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 the state of Israel as a temporary condition, an enemy they eventually expect to dispense with, permitting Israelis to, at best, live as a subject people in "Palestine." At worst, who knows?

When Israel first came into existence, the Arabs casually assumed they would destroy it. But Israel did something right. For 45 years the state defended itself with a toughness and determination that had, by 1993, left the Arabs reeling. It was a moment when Israel should have pushed its advantage, to get, once and for all, recognition of its right to exist.

Instead, the Israelis made what has turned out to be the historic mistake of easing up. Rather than go in for victory, they offered advantageous deals to their two main enemies, the Syrians and Palestinians.

Predictably, these offers backfired: Rather than being seen as far-sighted strategic concessions intended to close the conflict, they were interpreted as signs of Israel's demoralization. The result was renewed Arab hopes of destroying Israel through force of arms and an upsurge in violence. Diplomacy, in other words, unintentionally revived Arab dreams of obliterating the Jewish state.

Obviously, this wall of Arab 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 a high standard of living, a democratic policy, and a vibrant culture.

The great irony is that Arabs are paying the higher price for their destructive urge.

The great irony is that Arabs are paying the higher price for their destructive urge. The Arab focus on harming the Jewish state prevents a talented and dignified people from achieving its potential. It means they neglect improving their own standard of living, opening up their own political process, or attaining the rule of law. The result is plain to see: Arabs are among the world leaders in percentages of dictatorships, rogue states, violent conflicts, and military spending.

Getting Arabs to reconcile themselves to Israel's existence is easier to say than to do. But it is, and will remain, the only solution. Only such a change of heart will close down the century-old conflict, permit Israel to attain normality, and give Arabs a chance to advance down the path to modernity.

But this interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict puts the onus on Arabs, something we're not altogether accustomed to doing these days. Conventional wisdom has shifted so far that even Israelis tend to consider Arab acceptance of Israel a fait accompli, shifting the burden of action to Israel in the form of concessions (handing over the Golan Heights, parts of Jerusalem, etc.). But if that position was credible in 1993, surely today's inflamed rhetoric and the drumbeat of Palestinian violence proves it to have been a mirage.

Israel now has the unenviable task of convincing the Arabs that their dreams of destruction will fail. Translated into action, that means resolve and toughness.

Israel now has the unenviable task of convincing the Arabs that their dreams of destruction will fail. Translated into action, that means resolve and toughness. It means becoming feared, not loved. The process will be neither domestically pleasant nor internationally popular. But what choice is there? The failure of the Oslo negotiating process showed nothing so much as that attempts at a quick fix are doomed to fail.

Understanding the conflict in this way has profound implications. It means that the outside world, always anxious to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, can be most helpful by simply coming to terms with the basic fact of continued Arab rejection of Israel. It must acknowledge Israel's predicament, tolerate its need to be tough, and press the Arabs to make a fundamental change in course.

For many governments, even the American one, this approach requires a reversal from current policy of premising a breakthrough on concessions from Israel. Such a reversal in policy 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.

January 19, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, January 30, 2002 12:00 AM

But How Do You Change People's Minds?

Last night on CBC television (on the program "The National") a senior correspondent claimed to examine Arafat's current "fall from grace." Once again, the CBC used the program to reiterate the same sorry tunes: 1)Arafat the peace-activist or now the would be "martyr"; 2) Sharon the "master of provocation and revenge" -- that last phrase is a direct quote. Is everyone outside Israel a staggering imbecile? You can try to explain the situation a million and one times, and still they just don't "get it." These journalists present terrorists as "heroes" Barghouti was presented as valiantly defying his "tormentors" (again, that's a quote.) So, is it possible to alter their perverse opinions? (It also almost seems counter-productive to write letters -- they just become all the more belligerent.)

(7) Anonymous, January 25, 2002 12:00 AM

Truth is hard to swallow!

I found this article to be well-written, informative, if concise. Getting to the heart of the matter will not be easy, since both sides claim sovereignty over the land now claimed by Israel. The Islam Jihad against "modernity" and modern states like the U.S. Britain and Israel does, in effect, hurt them. It's kinda like cutting your nose to spite your face. Repressive Totalitarian Governments in Civilized Societies have gone the way of the dodo bird. When will Islam get a clue?
Daniel Pipes is right in claiming that the only path to peace lies in the recognition of the Arab World of Israel's existence and right to that existence. The Arabs have enough land - and oil to boot! What do they need the Israeli land for???

(6) Anonymous, January 24, 2002 12:00 AM

great article

I think this article is well written. I only pray that anti-Semitic governments like those of Belgium and France diminish in world influence when it comes to Middle-Eastern affairs.

(5) Leo Rennert, January 23, 2002 12:00 AM

Islam's appetite for conquest

In commenting on Daniel Pipes' article, one of your correspondents declares that Islam requires reconquest of lost lands. So just as Arabs refuse to accept Israel, I suppose they should not recognize modern Spain, but instead organize a jihad to reconquer areas once ruled by the Moors. Spain, I'm sure, wouldn't put up too much resistance since it's a partner in the European Union's steadfast support of Palestinian claims.

(4) Wajim Hassan, January 22, 2002 12:00 AM

The Arabs will have no choice than to accept the State of Israel to be

They,know that to Jews,being without or sharing Jerusalem is impossible and they (Arabs/Palestinians)do not have the strength to take over the place so they should forget about it.Do they not accept that it is "THE PROMISED LAND" ?

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