Foreign Policy

Unraveling the Middle East’s Zero-Sum Cultural Mindset

Whatever points of ideology and tactics may divide the nominally secular Palestinian Authority from the religiously orthodox Hamas, both have the same foundation and agree that Zionism is a “criminal conspiracy” against the Palestinian people, that Israel’s creation is a satanic, imperialist plot that must be reversed, and that Palestine is, was and always will be indivisible Islamic land. Based on translations from, they urge their believers to “Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them. Whenever you meet them, kill them,” and these exhortations are openly broadcast on the PA’s official TV channel. When Jews are discussed in PA textbooks, it is only to recite the same litany of their unchangeable, negative traits from the days of the Prophet to the present. On its maps, Israel is portrayed as Palestine, Israeli cities are portrayed as Palestinian, and Zionism continues to be portrayed as a modern-day expression of the Jews’ essential evil – all of which raises the question – “Can generations of Arabs weaned on such beliefs ever set them aside to make a stable, long-lasting peace with Israel as a Jewish state within any borders?”

These religious imperatives are also woven into the PLO Covenant (Charter) that sees Judaism as a religion, not a nationality. The Charter states that Jews are not a nation, and repudiates any claim Jews have to national self-determination or national sovereignty (that is, a Jewish state). Instead, it confers upon them the inferior religious status of dhimmis under Islamic law. Thus, from a theological perspective (separate and apart from the political aspirations relating to their uncompromising position on a “right of return” to “Palestine”), the Arab street will not accept the right of Jews to sovereignty on any of the land which, according to Islamic law, forms part of the Islamic “waqf” or holy endowment which accounts for why in February 2014, Hamas called on Gaza’s teachers not to use the UN’s materials in their classrooms, saying they “do not fit the (martyrdom) culture of Palestinian society and are meant to brainwash Palestinian students and convince them to accept the Zionist enemy.” According to the Education Ministry, the materials “contaminate the minds of our students, ignore Palestinian cultural mores and are completely detached from the reality of an Arab Muslim Palestinian student.” Hamas especially objected to the inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in UN textbooks, characterizing parts of the document as a violation of Islamic Law.

What is clear is that the Arab cultural narrative is focused on Jews not just Israelis as we in the West have been led to believe. Jonathan Kay writing in the National Post observes that: “When Israeli planes smashed Egyptian airfields in the opening hours of the Six-Day War, announcers on Radio Cairo took to the airwaves, calling on Arabs in neighboring countries to attack any Jews they could find. In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, then home to about 5,000 Jews, rioters responded with an orgy of murder, arson and looting that lasted three days. Even after the survivors had fled to Israel and the West, leaving Libya effectively judenrein, the anti-Semitic bloodlust remained unquenched. It was “the unavoidable duty of the city councils,” opined one Libyan newspaper, “to remove [Jewish] cemeteries immediately, and throw the bodies of the dead, which even in their eternal rest soil our country, into the depths of the sea … Only then can the hatred of the Libyan people toward the Jews be satiated.” Carrying this pathology forward, the idea of any compromise that would lead to a sovereign, independent Jewish state in the Islamic Middle East is pure fiction.

This hatred is also reflected in pernicious Palestinian attempts to negate Jewish history by denying the Jewish people’s ancient historical connection to the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Jewish historical sites in Judea and Samaria (including, but not limited to Rachel’s Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs at Machpelah and even the city of Hevron), the ludicrous claim that Abraham and Jesus were Palestinians, the claim that Islam represents the final and one true faith (Christianity and Judaism being flawed precursors), and the utilization of the PA educational system and media to deny Israeli legitimacy to the Land by otherwise falsifying, vandalizing and/or destroying that history.

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