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A Middle East Party

A Middle East Party

Palestinian nationalists and Islamists share a hatred of all things American. Both are taking indecent pleasure from American suffering.


In Stockholm, people stood outside the gates of the U.S. embassy with long burning candles to express their sorrow. In Berlin, they placed flowers at the embassy. Austria's parliament flew a black flag. "We are all Americans!" editorializes the not-usually pro-American newspaper Le Monde. A Kenyan newspaper recalled Usama bin Ladin's bombing in that country three years ago and stated that "Few nations will understand America's grief as deeply as the Kenyan nation." "I feel that my heart is breaking when I see it on television," said a Chinese.

And so it was around the world, as news was received of the catastrophic events in the eastern United States. Peoples and governments in most places responded with the grief and humanity one would hope for at such a moment.

There was, however, one major and conspicuous exception to this solemnity, and that was in the Middle East, where the day's events prompted a giant party.

"We're ecstatic," said a Lebanese. "Bull's-eye," commented Egyptian taxi drivers as they watched a rerun of the World Trade Center collapse. "It's payback time," said a Cairene. Other Egyptians expressed a wish for George W. Bush to have been buried in the buildings or exulted that this was their happiest moment since the war of 1973.

And so it went around the region. In Lebanon and the West Bank, Palestinians shot guns into the air, a common way of showing delight. In Jordan, Palestinians handed out sweets in another expression of joy.

A good many Muslims said the United States got what it deserved.

Even outside the Middle East, a good many Muslims said the United States got what it deserved. Nigerian papers reported that the Islamic Youth Organization in Zamfara province organized an event to celebrate the attacks. "Whatever destruction America is facing, as a Muslim I am happy," came a typical quote from Afghanistan. A Pakistani leader said that Washington is paying for its policies against Palestinian, Iraqi, Bosnian, and other Muslims, then warned that the "worst is still to come."

To be sure, most governments were on best behavior, decrying this and bemoaning that. But even here, there were cracks. In Syria, the restrained message of condolence came from an anonymous "official information source" rather than (as is normally the case) from President Bashshar al-Asad. In Iran, the milder of the newspaper analyses portrayed the airplane crashes as America "Paying the price for its blind support of the Zionist regime." The worse of them actually accused Israel of organizing the attacks, in a supposed effort to deflect world opinion from its own conflict with the Palestinians.

And then there is Iraq where the state-controlled media cheered on the violence, commenting with satisfaction that the "the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity." It also announced, with unabashed delight, that the "myth of America was destroyed along with the World Trade Center."

Why this unvarnished rage against the West, and against the United States in particular? Because two extremist ideologies maintain a grip on much of the Middle East and even beyond.

Palestinian nationalism. Often portrayed as having the relatively benign goal of creating a Palestinian state alongside of Israel, it actually has the far more virulent one of destroying Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian state that stretches "from the river to the sea." The sheer strength of Israel had long tamped down the hold of this ideology over Palestinians and other Arabic speakers. It arose with new vigor thanks to the Oslo process, which made Israel appear weakened and demoralized. As a result, even the mild American approbation of Israeli policies toward Palestinian violence over the past year has engendered a rare fury against the United States government, the American people, and all their works. Delight in American deaths is the natural result.

Islamism. This is the body of ideas that takes the religion of Islam and makes it the basis of a radical utopian ideology along the lines of fascism and Marxism-Leninism. It has ambitions to replace capitalism and liberalism as the reigning world system. Islamism accounts for the anti-American hatred coming out of places remote from the Arab-Israeli conflict, like Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Around the world, Islamists feel, they are stymied by an arrogant and imperialist West.

Adherents of this outlook are not, as one might expect, self-consciously aggressive but see themselves surrounded and besieged by the West. Around the world, Islamists feel, they are stymied by an arrogant and imperialist West. In the words of an Egyptian, the Americans "have us by the throat."

Islamists discern a long list of countries - Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia are prominent examples - where they believe local Muslim rulers are doing the West's dirty business in suppressing their movement. They also have another list - Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Sudan rank high here - where they see the West actively suppressing the best Islamist efforts to establish a just society. Whenever Muslims move towards the emergence of an Islamic State, one Islamist explains, the "treacherous hands of the secular West are always there in the Muslim world to bring about the defeat of the Islamic forces." The solution lies in fundamentally changing the nature of the United States, so that it becomes sympathetic to such Islamist efforts.

It bears noting that while Palestinian nationalists and Islamists share a hatred of all things American, their goals are different: the former merely aspire to a change in the country's foreign policy, whereas the latter seek to change the very nature of the country. In the meantime, however, both can take indecent pleasure from American suffering.

That Palestinian nationalists and Islamists have so crudely revealed their enmity to the United States gives clear proof of their attitudes and intentions. This has an obvious policy significance for Westerners: it means that we know who some of our most devoted enemies are. Western governments had for years fooled themselves into thinking that they could appease these extremist movements or maybe simply ignore them. At least now, after so many thousands of lost lives, we know what a bitter falsehood that is.

September 22, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) jeff pomykala, May 14, 2002 12:00 AM

Rebuttal, 9/24/2001

Islam may have come from the same "root" of Judaism, as you say, but it has been heavily fertilized with the toxic crap spewed by the Immams and dictatorial rulers of the middle-east, to the point that the "tree" has grown corrupt and ugly, with twisted, scarred branches - and the only fruit it bears is blood, death and destruction -- gifts and sacrifices to Satan, the father of all lies. Is this endemic to Islam as a whole?? Hmmm..what did Muhammed do at the dawn of Islam?? He made a false peace with the Jews of Mecca - just so he could deceptively build an unstoppable force to destroy them - sneak up behind them and slit their throat - all in the name of allah. Pretty much the exact same thing that Arafat and the rest are doing today. Arafat has spoken of using an olive branch and a gun (similar to the American concept of politicing for REAL peace but arming oneself to defend - What Arafat failed to say was the olive branch is a lie - a false offer to (like Mohammed's) to begin with. Look at Malaysia and Indonesia -- Look at India -- look at the world as a whole. LOOK AT WHERE YOUR LEADERS ARE LEADING YOU! Islam is not growing because it's a great religion -- it's growing because, once oyu take over a country through fomenting revolution, you kill anyone who disagrees with you! ~~
Let me ask/DARE you this, my fellow human: Take a plane and fly over to Israel, go to the West Bank -- and start preaching about peace and tolerance to your fellow palestinian muslims....How long do you think you will live?? Your fellow Muslims will kill you as a heretic! FACT!!! I suggest you incorporate that into your worldview.
2nd and 3rd generation Muslim-Americans are CLUELESS when it comes to Islam in the rest of the world. Keep practicing your peacefrul Islam, seriously! But mostly, I beg you to RAISE YOUR VOICE (if you dare) TO DENOUNCE ISLAMIC TERROR! Terrorists really do the alleged "peaceful" Islam a terrible injustice -- and are an affront to the One True G-d.

(7) Ruth, September 24, 2001 12:00 AM


I just want to say that most Muslims do not beleive the terrorist attacks were good or justified. Islam is NOT a religion of terror and hatred. I know you know this. It's root is Judaism. Thus, how can one call Islam a religion of blood thirsty, Jihad minded terrorists when it's very root is the religion we find so much peace, love and value in?

(6) Anonymous, September 24, 2001 12:00 AM

Why Americans are hated

Americans are hated because they act on the cries of other countries who call upon the U.S. to help in desperate situations that usually involve the slaughter of humanity including children. Some people don't care about the innocent children but American's do. American's don't just jump into unknown territory unless there was an actual need and proof to help bring a stop to evil acts upon humanity. They have given funds to almost every nation in the world in times of need. Their charities have provided the basic necessities to those who have none. When there have been natural disastors they (United States) have lended hands to help dig out, rebuild or restock. Religion has nothing to do with it, American could care less who you worship. That is what the country was founded on, the freedom of religion.A statement that Usama bin Laden said about how all American's should die regardless if they are men, woman or children because they supply taxes to the government that he opposed then he will have to count himself into that group. He accepted help from the U.S. government in the past, accepting items that were paid for with tax dollars. Personally I hope that people of that religious community are strong enough in themselves and the true spiritual beliefs to do what is right. Violence and terror are not in any G=dly religious text I have ever read.The only spiritual personality that I have read about that pushes evil is Satan.

(5) , September 23, 2001 12:00 AM

The real challenge...

will be to educate all of humanity at the stame time bring life back to the people. More importantly, we'll need to learn how to set aside religious, racial, ideological and political differences.

Finally, ignorance will lead all of us to the grave.


(4) Martin Rosenblatt, September 23, 2001 12:00 AM

America's Enemies

Do our leaders really know how extensive our enemies are. Do we really have the resolve to distroy them? M. Rosenblatt

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