Jerusalem

Israel

by Philip Greenspun in February 2003

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Monastery of St George, in Wadi Kilt near Jericho

Temple Mount.  Jerusalem.
If you would rather read this in printed form, get a copy of Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism and you'll find this essay alongside writings by Larry Summers, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, and David Mamet. My mom was proud.
This article is intended for people who've grown weary and confused after exposure to the relentless media coverage of the conflict in and around Israel, often referred to as a "crisis". The questions to be answered include the following: For answers we look back at history and at original sources where possible.

[I wrote this article because friends keep asking me for answers and opinions and it seemed better to lay it out in a coherent essay than provide piecemeal responses.]

Why does the United States support the State of Israel?

Sunrise on Jerusalem Israel and Egypt are America's largest recipients of foreign aid. Why should Americans want to spend their tax dollars supporting Israel and bribing the Egyptians into accepting peace on a continuous basis? Of what value is Israel to the U.S.? And if supporting Israel is such a great idea, how come the Europeans don't do it?

First let's look at what Israel is not. Israel is not a useful ally. We do not fight alongside the Israel Defense Forces in any battles. Nor does Israel fight any battles that we want fought on our behalf. The U.S. does not base troops or equipment in Israel. For its military adventures in the Middle East the U.S. has used aircraft carriers and bases in countries such as Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. The U.S. military is more powerful than the next 15 countries' militaries combined. There is no conceivable conflict in which having Israeli assistance would mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Israel is not an important trading partner. In reports by country at the U.S. Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Statistics department (http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/), Israeli trade is buried in "Other". The total volume of foreign trade with Israel was about $18 billion in 2002. This compares to $80 billion for Germany, $123 billion for China, $215 billion for Mexico, and $345 billion for Canada.

Supporting Israel in an effort to win over Jewish voters in the U.S. is not an obviously good strategy for a politician. The United States Department of State estimates that "by the year 2010, America's Muslim population is expected to surpass the Jewish population, making Islam the country's second-largest faith after Christianity" (http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/islam/fact2.htm). The Jews of America have declined in number to 5.2 million or less than 2 percent of the population. Politicians like rich people so you'd think that the fact that American Jewish households had a median income of $50,000 per year might give them more clout than the average American household with its $42,000 income (source: National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001). However, the income differential fades into insignificance when you adjust for the fact that the median age among American Jews is 41 against 35 for the general population. Older people of any race or religion are more likely to have advanced degrees and career experience that lead to higher salaries. The bottom line is that an American political strategy of winning over Muslim voters by promising to liberate Palestine would seem to be roughly as effective as promising to support Israel.

Jerusalem Israel is not a sympathy case. Conventional wisdom in international politics is "Nations do not have friends. They have interests." Nonetheless the U.S. occasionally tries to help suffering people in foreign countries where it serves no apparent U.S. interest. Could Israel be one of these places? Compared to the average person on Planet Earth, Israeli citizens, including the 1.2 million Arabs (2000 census), live in a paradise of economic prosperity and equality with representative government with a functioning and powerful legal system. Looking just within the region we could find many folks more deserving of sympathy, starting with the slaves held in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (www.iabolish.com). Or we could decide that charity begins at home; one can certainly find a lot more folks begging in the streets of Seattle and San Francisco than in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

What then has Israel done for the U.S.? The only concrete benefit that the State of Israel has provided to the United States is the absorption of millions of Jewish refugees from Europe, Arab countries, the former Soviet Union, and miscellaneous states such as Ethiopia. Most of these Jews would have preferred to live in the United States and in fact applied for admission to the U.S. We were able to turn down their applications for immigration in good conscience. As long as the State of Israel exists, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who shows up, we can turn Jews away from our borders without risk of an embarrassing mass killing.

It was not always this way. During the 1930s the average European Christian had the following preferences:

  1. (most preferred) Jews alive and well but living somewhere far away, e.g., North or South America
  2. Jews dead
  3. (least preferred) Jews living in Europe or somewhere else that would inconvenience Europeans
It is currently fashionable to demonize Adolf Hitler and the Germans who voted for him and his policies. However it is worth pointing out that Hitler original plan was not to kill Jews; he wanted to take their property and then kick them out of Europe. The U.S. and Britain, which together controlled the seas, were the largest obstacle to the German plan of expelling Jews. The U.S. would not accept Jewish immigrants. The British White Paper of May 1939, backed up by the British Navy, closed off Palestine. Under the White Paper no more than 75,000 Jews would be admitted to Palestine during the succeeding five years and after that all immigration would be at the discretion of Arabs. Nazi Germany's "Final Solution" was a solution to the problem of "there are no countries that are willing to accept Europe's Jews", not to the problem of "we really enjoy killing Jews and how can we kill as many as possible?"

Following the war, Americans changed their minds about Jews. Today the average American would probably express the following preference list:

  1. Jews alive and well but living somewhere far away
  2. Jews living in the U.S.
  3. (least preferred) Jews dead
Masada If the Arabs were to conquer Israel and fail to kill all of its citizens, there is a high probability that the Jewish survivors of that war would wash up on American shores. How happy would the the average American gentile be to live alongside Russian and Middle Eastern Jews who don't share his culture, language, and values? A 2002 Anti-Defamation League study found that 17 percent of Americans agreed with a long list of classical anti-Jewish statements and an additional 35 percent agreed with "Jews have too much power in the business world" or "Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street". Slightly more than 50 percent of Americans therefore are uncomfortable with the Jews that are already here. Rather than get into a national debate on whether more Jews can be tolerated on our shores, we send money and weapons to the Israelis. Imagine that you had a fat drunk cousin named Earl living in a trailer park in Louisiana. Would you rather send $250 every month to keep him in beer and pork rinds down there or let him come up and move into your guest room?

This preference shift occurring in America but not in Europe explains why the Europeans provide no financial support to the State of Israel. This is not because Europeans are stingy. European nations are the largest financial supporters of the Palestinian cause, providing more cash than the United States and far more than wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia (source: the "Building the State" section of www.pna.net). Europeans expect Jews fleeing Israel either to be killed or to settle in non-European countries.

Note that Europeans have demonstrated a willingness to pay money to keep immigrants out. Under German law ethnic Germans living in certain other countries (volksdeutsche) have the right to return to Germany and claim citizenship and various welfare benefits. There are approximately 300,000 volksdeutsche living in Kazakhstan. These are the remnants of a large ethnic German population that were once prosperous farmers in the Volga and who were exiled by Stalin to Kazakhstan in 1941. Their descendants do not speak German and don't have the skills or education to succeed in the German economy. So the German government tries to keep them happy right where they are through aid programs. Quoting from http://www.gtz.de/minderheiten/english/index.html: "The aim of the programme is to improve the living conditions of the German ethnic minority in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It wants to provide an alternative to emigration and to encourage the German minorities to remain in their resident countries."

Israel's primary practical value to the United States is as a place that will accept immigrant Jews, of which the past decades have produced quite a few. In the 1940s and 1950s Arab governments and civilians emulated German policies from 1930s. Rioting Muslims killed enough of their Jewish neighbors that the remainder fled. Arab governments required that the Jews leave any wealth or property behind. More than 600,000 Jews from Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab countries sought asylum in the State of Israel. These folks spoke no English, had no money, lacked a modern education, and had no experience of participating in a democracy. Most Americans would not have wanted them as neighbors. You could say the same for the more than 1 million Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel between 1989 and 2002. Between the founding of Israel in 1948 and 2002, Israel absorbed a total of 2.93 million Jews from other countries (source: http://www.jafi.org.il/aliyah/aliyah/clock/table.html).

[Nor would the U.S. want to accept the forthcoming waves of Jewish emigrants. France is home to 5 million Muslims, a rapidly growing community whose native sons include Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th September 11th hijacker". A rising tide of Muslim violence against Jews has sparked a growing percentage of French Jews, Europe's largest community at 600,000, to think about emigration ("French Jews leave home for Israel", BBC News, January 7, 2003). Jewish population statistics show nearly 1 million Jews remaining in Russian and Ukraine, countries with histories of anti-Jewish violence. On balance it is probably reasonable to expect at least 1.5 million Jews to become refugees within the next 50 years.]

Israel has no practical value for the nations of Continental Europe. The surviving descendant's of Germany's 500,000 pre-war Jews are not going to attempt to return to Berlin. Jews who escaped from Morocco with the clothes on their back are not going to want to try their luck in Poland (many of those Polish Jews who tried to return to their homes following WWII were murdered by mobs).

Why do Arabs reject the State of Israel?

Camels owned by Bedouin tribe in Israel In the Web age it isn't necessary to speculate on why the Arabs reject Israel. We can simply read what they've written on the subject. Let's start with Article 22 of the Palestinian National Charter [Covenant]:
Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.
Note that this is essentially the governing constitution for the Palestine National Authority, amendable only by a two-thirds vote of the Palestinian Congress. Not all Arab nations call for the destruction of Israel in their constitutions and yet most Arab countries have maintained a continuous declared state of war with Israel since 1948. To understand this 55-year-long war it therefore becomes necessary to engage in a bit of analysis.

Israel occupies 20,330 square kilometers of land or roughly 0.23 percent of nearby Arab territory (see table at the end of the this article). This percentage would be slightly larger if we excluded Iran, which is technically non-Arab but which has been at the forefront of the fight against Israel by training, financing, and arming Palestinians. This percentage would be much lower if we included the Arab states of North Africa such as Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, etc. To put this into perspective, 0.23 percent of the Lower 48 United States is roughly equal to the southeastern corner of Florida (about 1/8th of the state).

In some sense the State of Israel represents a tremendous achievement for the Arab countries. In exchange for a fraction of one percent of their territory they managed to expropriate the property of their Jewish citizens (estimated at between $13 and $30 billion in 1950 dollars) and expel approximately 870,000 Jews from their territories. Without incurring any of the bad publicity that afflicted Hitler, the Arabs managed to accomplish one of Nazi Germany's primary goals: creating a vast empire that was free of Jews. For the first time in 2500 years an Arab could walk down the streets of Baghdad without encountering a Jew. Morocco and Algeria rid themselves of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

As impressive an achievement as concentrating the Jews from all the Arab countries into a tiny corner of the Arab world is, it would be yet more impressive to dump the Jews off somewhere in Christian territory, or perhaps to kill them all. This then becomes the challenge facing the modern Arab political leader.

Are Arab Leaders Crazy?

Let's step back for a moment and look at Arab political leadership. Americans tend to be smug about the superiority of our political system. We don't have politicians killing everyone in a town because they think the townsfolk won't vote for them (Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, Hama 1982; official government death toll 20,000 but human rights organizations estimate closer to 40,000), beheading citizens for expressing dissenting points of view (Saudi Arabia), declaring 40 percent of the government budget "missing" while building new villas and buying new Mercedes for their cronies (Yasser Arafat), etc. Does this make us morally superior to Arabs? Let's consider first that Arab leaders are not elected. People who live in an Arab country are subjects of the rulers. The job of an Arab leader is to figure out how the people can be made to serve him, not vice versa.

The closest analog in American society is the public corporation. The textbooks and some legal statutes say that the CEO and the Board are supposed to serve the interests of the shareholders. In practice the directors and top executives of American corporations siphoned off hundreds of billions of dollars of shareholder wealth into their personal bank accounts during the 1990s. Jack Welch in Straight from the Gut proudly states that during his 20 years as General Electric CEO the "employees", by which he means himself and some other top managers, went from 1% to 31% ownership of GE. Rephrased, Jack and his golf partners stole 30% of GE from the investors who owned the company in 1980. [The most notorious Third World kleptocrat was Mobutu Sese Seko, estimated to have diverted as much as $5 billion in funds during 30 years of rule in Zaire (now the Congo). Measured against Congo's current annual GDP of $32 billion it would seem that Mobutu's slice was much smaller than the GE executives'.]

There is no reason to expect an Arab dictator to behave more altruistically than an American business executive. In fact, the Arab leader who behaves out of self-interest violates no trust or law unlike his American CEO counterparts.

Suppose that you managed to seize power in an Arab country. What would your first order of business be? Dictatorship is never a guaranteed long-term gig and therefore most people have started by transferring all the money that they could find into their personal Swiss bank accounts. Your second order of business is ensuring the happiness of your subjects. You don't actually care whether or not they're happy but you don't want them rioting in the streets and interfering with the flow of cash to Switzerland. Unless a subject is one of your cronies you can't make him happy with money or improved material conditions because you're moving all of the country's wealth into your own pockets. What you can offer your subjects is pride. By continuing the fight against Israel your subjects can feel that they are part of a noble effort that goes back to the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. and that has been, on balance, a tremendous success.

Starting from their homeland in present-day Saudi Arabia around the time of the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., the Arabs managed to conquer about half of the known world by 750 A.D.:

Islamic power and territory spread more gradually until the 15th century when it began to decline relative to European Christendom. The Industrial Revolution in Europe reduced Arab power to a low point in the late 19th century when most Arab lands became colonial possessions of Britain and France. With the withdrawal of the Europeans and the rise in oil prices and production, Arabs have enjoyed a surge of increasing power throughout the second half of the 20th century. Destroying the State of Israel would be a glorious milestone indeed in the Arab march of progress and your subjects will be happy to focus their attention on this goal rather than on the year-to-year economics of the nation.

Do you suppose that you would behave differently in this situation of absolute power? That you'd be unable to shake off your bourgeois roots and Western idea that government should serve the people? That unlike every Roman Emperor except Marcus Aurelius, you'd respond to absolute power by continuing to be a kind generous self-denying sort of human being?

Suppose that you made peace with Israel and withheld support from terrorists? In your country, as in every Muslim nation, there is a mosque funded by the Saudi Wahhabi sect where teenage boys are trained for the jihad. If they don't see you as part of the solution (war on the Great Satan (US) and the Little Satan (Israel)) they will probably come to see you as part of the problem. Like Anwar Sadat, you may find yourself a target for assassination by an organized Islmaic movement.

Why do Muslims hate Jews?

Before we address the question of why Muslims hate Jews let us work on nomenclature and the broader question of why so many non-Muslims have also hated Jews through the centuries.

We will not use the term antisemitism in this article. The word was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marrih to replace the then-current term Judenhass, which translates literally as "Jew-hatred". Marrih hated Jews and conjectured that middle-class Germans were turning away from the practice of Jew-hatred because the term for the activity sounded ugly. The neologism antisemitism was intended to sound more scientific and therefore make hatred of Jews more appealing to educated people in an industrial age.

Before considering why so many non-Muslims hate and have hated Jews, let's look at basic psychology research that has been done in this field. The classic experiment in this area is reported in Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment (Muzafer Sherif, et al.; 1954; full text at http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Sherif/). In 1949, Sherif divided 22 boys into two groups and took them to a 200-acre camp surrounded by Oklahoma's Robbers Cave State Park. The groups were set up in competition with one another and soon resorted to fighting and negatively stereotyping each other. Hating an out-group seems to make it easier for an in-group to function together. Moreover inciting hatred can be beneficial to leaders.

For an example that is close to home, consider George W. Bush and his constant talk of a "war against Iraq". Militarily the term "war" does not make much sense. Using 5 percent of the American nuclear arsenal, Iraq could be wiped off the planet in 5 minutes. Limited to conventional bombs, the U.S. Air Force could reduce every Iraqi city to rubble within a few months, at little greater expense or risk to American lives than is currently entailed in the Air Force's training missions over Nevada. It doesn't make linguistic sense to talk about a "war" if there is no possibility of losing but it does make political sense. If a president is in the middle of a war it is difficult to mount political opposition to that president without appearing disloyal and unpatriotic. Focusing media attention on a war prevents reporters from asking questions such as "How come William T. Esrey and Ronald LeMay, the two top executives at Sprint, deserved to get paid $311 million for their services to shareholders when the company's business and stock are in tatters? And then why is it fair that Joe Sixpack has to pay income tax but Esrey and LeMay didn't have to pay tax on their $311 million income? Would it have been fairer to divide the $311 million--equal to half of Sprint's 2002 profit--among the 13,000 workers that these guys laid off--$24,000 per worker--or possibly to the shareholders(!)?" [These gentlemen did pay a few million dollars to the accounting firm of Ernst and Young to participate in a tax shelter that the Internal Revenue Service is currently investigating and considering disallowing, in which case presumably Esrey and LeMay will join the folks in the February 7, 2003 New York Times story "Wealthy Suing Accountants Over Rejected Tax Shelters"] After the U.S. military crushes Iraq, a country that in 1990 had the same gross domestic product as West Virginia, George W. Bush will get a big boost in popularity for winning the war. Having Iraq as an enemy is apparently somewhat useful to the American people and very useful to America's leaders.

Why have the Jews through the centuries made such good all-purpose targets for hatred? It is difficult to understand how Jew-hatred started so let's focus on the factors that have made it endure: (1) concentration in residence, (2) concentration in occupation, (3) smallness in number, (4) military weakness.

Factor 1: concentration in residence. Until the early 19th century when they were emancipated by Napoleon, the Jews of Europe were required to live in ghettos, separate from gentiles, by order of the Catholic Church. After emancipation, the Jews still tended to clump together if for no other reason than the requirement that at least 10 men be assembled for morning prayers. In the United States real estate covenants prohibiting the sale of property to Jews kept them to some extent separate from other Americans, at least from those in the ruling class (these covenants were gradually dismantled through legal action just before and after World War II). It is easier and more convenient to hate people if you don't have to live with them.

Considerably strengthening the effects of Factor 1 is the fact that people don't change their prejudices without direct personal contact with the object of those prejudices. For example, suppose that you've been taught negative stereotypes about black people. If you move into a middle-class neighborhood where half of your neighbors are black you'll probably begin to change your mind. But if you never meet a black person face-to-face, why would you ever change your mind? The phenomenon has also been demonstrated by those Europeans who express hatred of Jews in opinion polls despite the fact that they live in countries where all the Jews were killed in 1944. An Anti-Defamation League (ADL) study in 1998 concluded "The current survey shows that the most anti-Semitic Americans tend to have less contact with Jews in their day-to-day life than do other Americans."

Factor 2: concentration in occupation. Jews in Europe were prohibited from owning land or farming and encouraged to take up a variety of trades including money lending, an activity prohibited by scripture for Christians. This made it easy for Europeans to believe that Jewish bankers controlled the financial markets. Jews in the United States were excluded from universities by quotas. Jews weren't welcome in traditional industrial enterprises. For example, in the early 1920s Henry Ford was the most respected businessman on the planet, sort of like an uber Bill Gates. He demonstrated his commitment to diversity in the workplace by publishing The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, a book that was a great inspiration to Adolf Hitler and early Nazi converts (if you Google the title you'll find the full text available on many Muslim sites worldwide). Jews looking for opportunity turned to new industries such as Hollywood and publishing. This made it plausible for Americans to believe that Jews controlled their media. Concentration in occupation among Jews reduces the likelihood that the average gentile will encounter a Jew at work and thereby have his or her prejudices contradicted.

Factor 3: smallness in number. Jews today number roughly 13 million worldwide. The peak of Jewish population was 1939 when the estimate was between 16 and 18 million. Close encounters, the only antidote to prejudice, are unlikely when the hated group is only 0.21 percent of the world population.

Factor 4: military weakness. Between the rise of the Roman Empire and 1948 the Jews were unable to achieve sovereign power in any region of the world and therefore were unable to build a military force. If you're going to hate a group and periodically inflict violence on them, it is best to pick a group that cannot retaliate.

The inherent virtues of hating an out-group plus these four factors were sufficient to fuel anti-Jewish violence throughout Christian Europe sponsored by the ruling class of the time. In medieval times this was primarily the Catholic Church and its local officials with secular authorities in the background. In modern times, up through the Holocaust, the primary sponsors of violence against Jews were secular officials with the Christian authorities in the background. The experience of Jews in the Islamic world was similar to the experience in Europe. State-sponsored murders of thousands of Jews were common in North Africa between the 8th and 12th centuries; Arab mobs were responsible for most of the killings after 1800.

It is difficult to reach back through the mists of time to determine whether or not stirring up Jew-hatred was truly beneficial to the Catholic Church or various secular rulers. So let's start with Nazi Germany. Jew-hatred was one of the most successful programs of the Nazi party. Hating Jews galvanized the German people and helped in creating an economic boom through the 1930s. The Jews of Germany were pauperized, their wealth and property transferred to German gentiles, and profits spread among the government contractors who helped smooth the process along (see the book IBM and the Holocaust for just how willing American companies were to assist the German government, up to December 1941 and beyond). Foreign governments did not object to anti-Jewish measures such as the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Germany's military and territorial ambitions ultimately resulted in negative consequences but her experience with Jew-hatred was almost entirely positive.

[Even those Germans directly involved in exterminating Jews were seldom punished. Participants in the Wannsee Conference, for example, where the Final Solution was planned, generally spent less than 4 years in prison--compare this to the minimum of 5 years in Federal prison that you'll get today if you are caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine.]

Let us consider Jew-hatred in modern Europe. Opinion polls in countries such as Poland reveal that hatred of Jews has survived even where the Jews have not. British and French academics propose a cultural and scientific boycott against Israel, an echo of 1930s Germany in which university professors joined the Nazi party at a rate double that of the general population. What purpose does Jew-hatred serve in modern-day Europe? Nearly all European countries were home to enthusiastic participants in the murder of the Jews of Europe. This is a source of a certain amount of shame and bad publicity for Europeans. Suppose, however, that it were possible to demonstrate that Israel is the worst of the 300 nations on this earth? This justifies the killing of Europe's Jews to a large extent: "Just look at the rogue nation these Jews created when left to themselves." [The reasoning is a bit flawed because the vast majority of Israel's Jews come from Arab countries or Russia; the Europeans did such a thorough job of killing their Jews that we'll never know what kind of country they would have created.] A side-effect of this desire to show how evil the state created by the co-religionists of the Jews whom they murdered is the European focus on Palestinians as a humanitarian cause. There may be billions of people in the world who are poorer and more oppressed than the Palestinians but they can't be held up as examples of how horrible Jews are and therefore get no mindshare and no assistance.

Jew-hatred in America is less prevalent and less violent than in Europe. As noted in the first section, a 2002 ADL study found that 17 percent of Americans were solid Jew-haters and 52 percent held some anti-Jewish beliefs. These numbers compare to 21 percent of Europeans holding the full range of stereotypes and a variable number by country proving mildly anti-Jewish, with the Spaniards topping the list at 71 percent. Americans generally are able to hold anti-Jewish stereotypes without feeling the need to take action. For example, the author has encountered quite a few Harvard PhDs who express the belief that a conspiracy of Jewish financiers manipulates the U.S. economy (their doctorates are in humanities, not business). These university professors and non-profit organization administrators would not want to be seen at a Ku Klux Klan rally nor participate in a lynch mob but they'd be happy to join a boycott of the State of Israel. That only about half of Americans hold some of the same beliefs about Jews espoused by the Nazi party is comforting until one one reflects that Hitler was able to hold power in Germany with only 33 percent of the vote in 1932 and 44 percent in 1933.

We come finally to the original question of why Muslims hate Jews. These days it is mostly because they're taught to by their governments. The standard grade school curriculum in Muslim countries includes a healthy measure of Jew-hatred, much of it translated from materials first developed by Nazi Germany. State-run television in Muslim countries keeps the public fed with a constant stream of images of Israeli troops beating up Palestinians in the West Bank. Saudi-funded mosques complement the government-supplied material to the point that the average Malaysian Muslim, who has never been within 500 miles of a Jew, might easily ascribe any of his problems to an international Jewish conspiracy and the rogue state of Israel.

A declining standard of living contributes to anger among the populace and the consequent search for scapegoats. The vast majority of Muslims live in Third World countries where any economic surplus is appropriated by the ruler's family and friends. Rather than investing the money in new machines for factories or productivity-enhancing technology, rich people in the Third World tend to sock money away in Swiss bank accounts or build themselves fabulous villas with fleets of imported cars and jets. The family that owns Saudi Arabia, for example, has reportedly transferred $1 trillion into foreign bank accounts, an amount nearly equal to the $1.1 trillion invested in capital goods during 2001 by all U.S. businesses; King Fahd spent $300 million on his August 2002 family vacation in Spain. Lack of re-investment of surplus results in slow or negative economic growth. Meanwhile the population in Muslim countries generally grows rapidly, e.g., 2%/year for Egypt, 2.5% for Jordan, 2.9% for Saudi Arabia, compared to 0.1%/year for the average rich country (source: www.prb.org). If the Canadian economy grows 2% next year, for example, and the wealth is spread equally, the average person will have 1.7% more money to spend because the wealth need only be shared with 0.3% more people. If the Saudi economy were to do as well as it did in 2001 and grow 1.6%, the average Saudi would have a standard of living that was 1.3% lower, even if the new wealth were distributed equally.

[There is evidence that growth in the U.S. economy is governed by similar forces. In the late 1920s the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of Americans rose to 45 percent. They built a lot of big fancy houses for themselves and the Great Depression followed. Between 1979 and 1997 the share of wealth for the top 1 percent of Americans rose from 20 percent to 40 percent. All of these rich people bidding against each other for waterfront property and Impressionist paintings has led to tremendous inflation in beach house prices and Sotheby's auctions while nobody can give away machine tools or improved information systems. In the 1950s a CEO made 5-10X the salary of the average worker and a company could pay out some of its profit in dividends, thereby encouraging further investment, and internally invest the rest in productivity improvements. In the 1990s a typical large company employed a long list of top executives earning 100-1000X the salary of their average worker. As in the case of the Sprint managers mentioned earlier, these amounts were often comparable to the company's total profits and therefore public corporations had a lot less to invest. The result was the recession that started in late 2000.]

Muslims have a Jew-hatred tradition that dates back at least 1000 years. Most Muslim countries expelled their Jews more than 50 years ago and consequently 99 percent of the world's Muslims will never meet a Jew face to face. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that Muslims will go on believing what they've been taught by their governments and mullahs. The worldwide Muslim population is estimated at between 1.2 and 1.4 billion. If we assume that the percentage of Muslims who really buy into what their leaders are telling them about Jews is equal to the percentage (33) of German voters who opted for Hitler in 1932, that works out to more than 400 million Jew-hating Muslims. This population constitutes an inexhaustible source of financial and physical support for anti-Jewish violence.

Why do Muslims hate the United States?

As with the preceding question we should step back and ask the more general question "Why does everyone hate the United States?" Everyone hates the U.S. because everything that goes wrong in the world today is the fault of the U.S. Our military consists of 1.5 million highly trained people and tens of thousands of machines capable of getting them very quickly to where they are needed. Yet though we claim to be interested in justice and human welfare we generally don't bother to act to protect non-citizens. For example, impending genocide in Rwanda elicited the following quote from then-President Bill Clinton: "... I mention it only because there are a sizable number of Americans there and it is a very tense situation. And I just want to assure the families of those who are there that we are doing everything we possibly can to be on top of the situation to take all the appropriate steps to try to assure the safety of our citizens there." In other words "We could use all of our airpower and troops to stop the Hutus from killing the Tutsis but instead we're going to airlift American citizens out and then move on to the next issue." An estimated 1 million people died.

Nobody is going to blame the Rwandan genocide on Ireland. They've only got 17,000 troops and a limited number of ships and cargo planes. Nobody is going to blame Denmark, with its 35,000 troops. But the U.S. military is strong enough to intervene anywhere in the world. People can blame, with some justification, anything that makes them unhappy on the U.S.

Ask Joe Foreigner what upsets him most about the U.S. Top on the list is the fact that the U.S. is too interventionist, swaggering cowboy-like with military power into complex international situations. Complaint #2, however, is that the U.S. failed to intervene in a particular situation that is near and dear to Joe's heart. They hate us because we are too interventionist... except when we're not interventionist enough. They also hate the U.S. because they're so weak and their government essentially serves at our government's pleasure. Consider how annoying it is to be an American voter, knowing that because you don't have $50 million you don't have any political power. Imagine how much more annoyed you'd be if you were a citizen of one of the European nations. Not only are your politicians corrupted by the local rich but if your society wants to do something that is contrary to a sufficiently important U.S. desire, the U.S. military might invade and turn your country into a possession, ruled by a colonial viceroy.

Joe Third World Foreigner has even more reason to hate the U.S. than Joe European Foreigner. Most Third World governments have no plausible claim to legitimacy. They have power because they seized power and because the U.S. has chosen not to overthrow them. If Joe Third World Foreigner hates his rulers, who are presumably skimming whatever they can take out of his pocket, it is only natural for Joe to hate the U.S. for enabling his rulers to remain in power.

If Muslims hate the U.S. more than average it is probably simply because they have a longer than average list of things that are making them unhappy. Most Muslims are poor, getting poorer, and living under dictatorships in which they are essentially the personal property of the rulers. Most Muslims are exposed, at least via television, to a world in which women are permitted to show their heads in public, drive cars, and defy orders from their fathers and husbands. Most Muslims live in societies that lack the technological wherewithal to manufacture lightbulbs, much less the advanced weapons that will be necessary to overpower the infidels. And it can all be blamed on the United States.

Why are the governments of the Middle East so unstable?

Today's most volatile Arab nations occupy land that was once part of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan allied himself with Germany in World War I and as a consequence lost Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Mesopotamia in the Treaty of Versailles (1919). France and Britain took possession of these territories and tried to make them into European-style nation states. Note that the idea of a nation-state was relatively new at the time. Bismarck unified Germany in 1871 but most older Germans still identified more strongly with their principality, e.g., Bavaria, than with the German nation. The national anthem Deutschland uber Alles ("Germany over all") was intended to encourage people to submerge their local affiliations. Italy was unified in 1870. Germany and Italy spent centuries on the path to unification, aided by literacy among their citizens, mass communications, railroads and telegraphs.

The vast nation states carved out in the Arab world by the British and French had very primitive communication infrastructures and a largely illiterate population. If you were friends with a European diplomat you might find that you and your family were given absolute power over an area one fifth the size of the US (Saudi Arabia) or twice the size of Idaho (Iraq) and you could even ask that your new country be named after your family ("Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan" and "Saudi Arabia"). These regions might contain lots of mutually antagonistic tribes with linguistic, religious, and ethnic divisions. The first source of instability is that the nation-states of the Middle East in general did not encapsulate groups of people that had any real affinity for each other or common identity. Sudan, for example, contains a northern group of Muslim Arabs and a southern group of animist and Christian blacks. The primary interaction between these groups over the centuries has been the Arabs sweeping down to capture and enslave blacks. The British in 1956 decided that these two groups should be yoked together forever in one country and the result, according to BBC News, has been "Unstable governments, civil war and widespread human rights abuses have afflicted the country ever since." The CIA Factbook notes that "Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war for all but 10 years of this period (1972-82). Since 1983, the war and war- and famine-related effects have led to more than 2 million deaths and over 4 million people displaced." The country is one quarter the size of the United States, the people lack a common language, religion, or race, the literacy rate is 46 percent, yet nobody is willing to say "Hey, maybe it was a mistake to carve this big a chunk out of the African continent as one country."

[Nigeria was a similar arbitrarily carved-out country with an Arab north and a Christian-indigenous south that has achieved a measure of stability. Muslim mobs killed thousands of Christians in the mid-1960s, leading the Christian Ibo (or "Igbo") tribe to secede in the late 1960s, forming a new country called Biafra. The Muslim tribes controlled the Nigerian army and were therefore successful in overpowering the Ibo, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1-3 million Christians and the permanent exclusion of the Ibo from political power in the reunified nation. Muslim-Christian violence continues to claim hundreds of lives each year in Nigeria but the government and military have a firm grip on power and hence Nigeria is considered a successful example of decolonialization.]

A second factor contributing to instability is the fact that any tribal leader or military commander could claim just as much legitimacy to rule as the European-appointed dictator. No ruler sought or had the consent of his subjects. Iraq, originally granted by the British to the Hashemite family that also got Jordan, provides a typical example of coups and counter-coups.

A third factor contributing to instability is that agreements among peoples are impossible where there is no representative government. If the democratically elected government of the United States signs an agreement with the democratically elected government of Canada, one presumes that this agreement represents the will of both people. The agreement ought to survive even if the leaders who signed it have been replaced. This presumption does not make sense in the Arab world where every country is ruled by a dictator. The Ayatollah Khomeini did not feel bound to honor the deposed Shah's various treaties. If you seized power in Iraq tomorrow would you feel bound to honor Saddam Hussein's agreements with neighbors? An agreement in the Arab world is only good for as long as the two guys who signed it are still in power. [Note that this has painful implications for those Israelis who yearn for a negotiated peace; they could sign deals with every living Arab dictator but face a new war the instant that one of those signatories dies or is overthrown. For example, if they signed a peace treaty with Yasser Arafat today and Hamas took over the Palestinian leadership tomorrow, the war would be back on.]

Why are the Palestinians so violent?

If you want to know why Palestinians are violent, look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you'd be spending 10 minutes thinking about the State of Israel or the disposition of Palestinians if not for their violence.

Most of the nations within the Middle East contain conquered people and conquerors. For an example right next door to the Palestinians, consider that the rulers and bulk of the population in Egypt are Arab conquerors who swept in from the southeast. The conquered indigenous people are the Copts, the descendants of the ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids and temples so familiar to tourists. The Copts converted to Christianity during the Roman Empire and have suffered from religious, political, and economic oppression for 1300 years, ever since the Arab conquest. Copts are periodically murdered by Arab-Muslim mobs and generally the Arabs are not prosecuted for the killings. You could read about this in www.copts.net but you probably won't because the Copts are not violent.

At the Potsdam Conference the Allies granted Eastern European nations the right to expel their ethnic German citizens, i.e., people who had been living in these areas for generations but whose forebears were German and who spoke the German language. Roughly 12 million of these volksdeutsche were in fact expelled, their property confiscated, and as many as two million may have been killed in the process. The surviving volksdeutsche settled in crummy houses in Germany and Austria and integrated themselves with those societies. If there were a Volksdeutsche Liberation Army murdering Czech, Polish, and Hungarian civilians the world might pay some attention to the injustices suffered by this group.

The 870,000 Jews expelled from Arabs countries in the 1940s and 1950s similarly settled quietly in the U.S., Europe, and Israel. They aren't out there blowing up Iraqi, Moroccan, and Algerian embassies or airplanes, which is why you probably never think about them.

The list of people who were displaced by the events of World War II and decolonialization is endless. The only group that anyone pays attention to is the Palestinians. If the Palestinians were to stop blowing up airplanes and pizza shops people would stop paying attention.

Arab leaders don't care about non-violent Palestinians. As noted earlier, if you were an Arab leader there is no reason to care about your own subjects, much less members of very distant tribes. The only Arab nation that has ever offered Palestinians citizenship is Jordan; a Palestinian family that has lived in Egypt or Saudi Arabia for several generations will still be aliens with no right to permanent residence. Thus there are more than 4 million people officially classified as Palestinian refugees despite the fact that the final British census before the 1948 war found only about 1 million people of all religions living in Palestine. The primary agency for these stateless souls is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). If you visit their Web site, http://www.un.org/unrwa/, you'll see that the U.S. and European nations provide almost all of the funding. Historically in fact the Western nations provided 100 percent of the funding for UNRWA but in recent years Saudi Arabia has been shamed into chipping in. For 2002 the Saudis contributed $5.8 million, compared to a U.S. contribution of $120 million and Britain's $30 million. Most Arab countries contribute less than the cost of a new Mercedes automobile.

Violent Palestinians, by contrast, have no trouble getting support from fellow Arabs. In April 2002 the Saudi state television network ran a telethon that raised more than $100 million to aid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers (Associated Press, April 13, 2002). Iraq, which contributes nothing to UNRWA, has been donating roughly $10 million per year to the families of suicide bombers. Iran, another state that contributes nothing to UNRWA, sends weapons and money to anti-Israel groups such as Hezbollah and Yasser Arafat's army, most notably a 50-ton shipment of rockets and plastic explosives in January 2002 (notable because it was in violation of the agreements that Arafat had signed and because it was discovered and intercepted by the Israeli Navy).

The only way that a Palestinian can get his or her hands on a share of Arab oil wealth is by becoming a suicide bomber. "[Izzidene al Masri] lived with his 12 brothers and sisters and his parents in a neat, tile-floored house" (Knight Ridder, April 1, 2002, on the Sbarro pizza shop bomber). If you lived in poverty it might make sense to trade your life for the knowledge that Saudi Arabians would support your parents, grandparents, and 11 siblings in comfort for the rest of their lives.

This kind of poverty is likely to endure because Palestinians combine a low level of education and a high level of illiteracy (30 percent) with perhaps the highest birthrate of any world population, estimated for 2001 at 5 percent per annum by passia.org. This means that Palestinians need to generate economic growth of 5 percent per year, and preserve that growth from kleptocratic politicians, merely to maintain their standard of living. For comparison, the most rapidly growing population with which most Americans are familiar is Mexico; its population is growing at an annual rate of 1.47 percent (CIA Factbook 2002). In the 1990s, according to the World Bank, the average country enjoyed a 2.5 percent annual growth rate. Even if they succeeded in liberating all of Palestine, the Palestinians would have a difficult time growing at any rate close to 5 percent per year. They'd have one of the most densely populated countries in the world, one of the poorest in natural resources, especially water, and a complete lack of industry.

It may be a mistake to look too deep into Palestinian poverty for the roots of Palestinian violence. For most violent Palestinians we need not conjecture as to the motivation for their violence because they've explained it in their own words. Here is an except from The Palestinian National Charter, July 1-17, 1968:

Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.

Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit. [Note that this would include the present-day country of Jordan, 70 percent of the land of the original British Palestine, split off and handed to Emir Abdullah in 1923.]

Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.

Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war.

The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations; particularly the right to self-determination.

Source: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/mideast.htm

Hamas has a Web site where they explain their goals:
Hamas is a Jihadi (fighting for a holy purpose) movement in the broad sense of the word Jihad. It is part of the Islamic awakening movement and upholds that this awakening is the road which will lead to the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.

... [settlement with the State of Israel] should not be allowed to happen because the land of Palestine is a blessed Islamic land that has been usurped by the Zionists; and Jihad has become a duty for Muslims to restore it and expel their occupiers out of their land.

Hezbollah also has a Web site (www.hizbollah.org) where they explain their objectives:
Because Hezbollah's ideological ideals sees no legitimacy for the existence of "Israel" a matter that elevates the contradictions to the level of existence. And the conflict becomes one of legitimacy that is based on religious ideals. ... And that is why we also find the slogan of the liberation of Jerusalem rooted deeply in the ideals of Hezbollah. Another of its ideals is the establishment of an Islamic Government.

Hezbollah also used one of its own special types of resistance against the Zionist enemy that is the suicide attacks. These attacks dealt great losses to the enemy on all thinkable levels such as militarily and mentally. The attacks also raised the moral across the whole Islamic nation.

Hezbollah also sees itself committed in introducing the true picture of Islam, the Islam that is logical. Committed to introduce the civilized Islam to humanity.

Note that if we take seriously the words of the Palestinian fighters we can ignore 99 percent of the journalism and punditry to which we are exposed. The guys with the guns have explained very clearly why they are fighting and under what conditions they will lay down their arms. Their reasons for fighting and their conditions for peace have nothing to do with day-to-day events.

How have the Israelis survived for so long?

The Arab war on Israel is now in its 53rd year and the fact that the Israelis have hung on for so long is primarily a testament to spectacular Arab incompetence. Relying on an opponent's military incompetence is not a viable long-term strategy. The U.S. military exhibited spectacular incompetence at the beginning of World War II, losing battles where we outnumbered the Germans 10 to 1. Our enemies were not able to enter North America and prevent us from regrouping. Consequently we ultimately learned how to fight and prevailed. The Arabs are gradually moving into the modern age and learning how to use Western technology. Every year the Arabs sell a bit more oil and grow a bit wealthier. Additionally there are 1 billion non-Arab Muslims worldwide happy to devote a portion of their wealth and energy to the challenge of killing or otherwise removing the Jews in Israel. Every time an Arab army is defeated it can simply retreat back across the border and regroup to fight another year or another decade. At first glance, it is difficult to see how the Arabs have failed thus far and how they can continue to fail in the long run.

The last real fight between Arabs and Jews was the 1973 Ramadan War. In this war, called the "Yom Kippur War" by Westerners, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, backed up with money, troops, tanks, and airplanes from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan, and came very close to winning. All of these countries have much larger economies and militaries than they did in 1973. All, except for Egypt and Jordan, remain in a state of declared war with Israel. In light of the example of the Ramadan War, the willingness of Anwar Sadat to sign a peace treaty with Israel back in 1978 seems either insane or an enormous triumph for the diplomacy of American President Jimmy Carter.

Perhaps there is a military and rational explanation for the 1978 peace treaty, however. The Israeli nuclear weapons program was in its infancy in 1973 when the Arabs launched their big war. The best estimates are that Israel had enough material to make 3 bombs. By 1978, however, Israel was estimated to have built between 100 and 200 atomic bombs, enough nuclear power to wipe out every town in Egypt, whose population is densely concentrated along the banks of the Nile River. Anwar Sadat, in command of a military without nuclear weapons, could no longer realistically hope to prevail in a conflict with Israel.

The nuclear balance of power has been shifting since 1978. Pakistan has the Bomb and long-range ballistic missiles. Wealthy Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia have been buying missiles from the Chinese and anyone else who will sell them. Ironically the Palestinians may save the physical lives of the Jews. If a Arab dictator were to succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons, dropping the Bomb on Israel would seem to be a quick and easy path to everlasting glory. The fact that the Palestinians are living in and among the Jews and would be killed alongside them might be the only thing that gives a nuclear-capable Arab pause. In 2002 there were 1.26 million Arabs who held Israeli citizenship and who lived within the 1948 boundaries of Israel, nearly 20 percent of the population. Most of the remainder of those officially classified as Palestinian refugees live in the West Bank, Gaza, or in nearby Jordan.

Are the Palestinians adequate protection for the state of Israel? Islamic terrorists have demonstrated a willingness to kill coreligionists in the service of larger goals, e.g., when they brought down the World Trade Center and the Muslims working inside. Secular Arab leaders going as far back as Anwar Sadat have pronounced themselves willing to lose millions of their own soldiers in exchange for a victory over Israel. Given the lack of interest in Palestinian welfare by fellow Arabs over the decades it seems reasonable to conclude that the deaths of even several million Palestinians might come to be considered acceptable as the price of liberating the land.

Israel's nuclear arsenal is small and weak. The Israelis might be capable of wiping out neighboring capitals such as Cairo and Amman but not of surviving a first strike, deterring an Osama bin-Laden-style foe, or of reaching a far away enemy such as Saudi Arabia. On balance it would seem that the presence of the Palestinians amidst the Jews is currently the main deterrant against an Arab nuclear or biological attack.

Currently it seems as though Israel and its enemies have arrived at a standoff. However, taking the long view and keeping in mind that the Muslims can afford to lose 1000 battles while the Israelis cannot afford to lose even one, it seems worth considering what would transpire if the Muslims were to win. The published post-victory plans of the Arabs call for deporting all the Jews who weren't in Israel prior to 1947 back to where they came from. The most problematic subgroup therefore are the 600,000 Israeli Jews, and their descendants, who were expelled from Arab countries. Would the Arabs want them back in their homelands? Would a population that has grown up on a steady diet of Jew-hatred in their schools, mosques, and media accept Jews back in their midst?

Conclusion

Temple Mount.  Jerusalem. Day-by-day newspaper accounts of violence in Israel are constructed to provide entertainment between advertising, not to illuminate. Fundamentally the facts are the following: Taking the long view, the State of Israel is most simply explained as a concentration camp for Jews. Starting in the 1930s the Europeans expropriated the property of their Jews and collected the physical bodies of those Jews in camps where they could be worked to death--the Nazis did not put healthy Jews into gas chambers until they had become exhausted by slave labor. In the 1940s and 1950s the remaining Jews of Central Europe were by and large sent to Israel while at the same time Arab nations expropriated the wealth of their 1000- and 2000-year-old Jewish communities and sent the physical bodies of the Jews to Israel (except for some thousands who were killed by mobs). In the last decades of the 20th century the former Soviet Union began to export its Jewish population, though without the violence and confiscation that had accompanied Jewish migrations from Europe and Arab nations.

Historically most concentration camps for Jews have eventually turned into death camps and certainly there is no shortage of people worldwide trying to effect this transformation.

Is there really a crisis? (Practical Implications)

Talking on the cell phone. Jerusalem This article's primary practical value is intended to be in freeing you from the tyranny of the daily news. If there is a big news story from Israel, feel free to watch The Simpsons. Elected governments will come and go in Israel. Dictators will rise and fall among the Arab nations. Terrorists will kill civilians. The Israeli army will kill terrorists. American and European university professors will vent their Jew-hatred on Israelis and the Israeli government. Politicians and diplomats will negotiate. Peace agreements will be signed when a military stalemate is reached. War will resume when the Arabs believe that they have a new and useful military tactic. All of these events are insignificant against the larger background of history painted above and compared to the major events that will transpire when the Arabs score a major military breakthrough.

Referring to an Israeli-Palestinian "crisis" in a headline is a good way to sell newspapers but not an accurate description of a conflict that will enter its second century soon. The last significant event was the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty on March 26, 1979. You could have missed every news report for more than two decades and yet be fully up to date on this crisis.

Events that would qualitatively change the situation in Israel include the following:

To build a strong military force for the ultimate liberation of all Palestine, the Palestinians must have their own sovereign state in which heavy weapons can be accumulated and large armies trained. This fact has not been lost on the neighboring governments. Between 1948 and 1967 the state of Jordan occupied the West Bank and prevented the Palestinians from forming their own state. Between 1967 and the present day the state of Israel has occupied the West Bank and prevented the Palestinians from forming their own state. Lacking sovereignty the Palestinians have been unable to stop the Jordanian and Israeli armies from periodically rolling through their neighborhoods confiscating weapons and arresting terrorists, thus capping the number of effective fighters.

Start following the news if you hear that a sovereign Palestinian state has been established on the West Bank because that is a required first step in any larger effort by Palestinians.

What would be the logical second step? Jew-haters worldwide like to cheerlead for a Palestinian takeover of the present state of Israel but the reality is that a takeover of Jordan would be much easier and in fact this is where most Palestinian efforts to achieve sovereignty have been focussed. Jordan offers five times the land area of Israel defended by a military that is considerably weaker. The majority of Jordan's citizens are Palestinian yet the country is ruled by foreigners, the Hashemite family of Mecca, who were defeated in their native land by the Bedouins under Ibn-Saud and were granted ownership of most of Palestine by Britain. Relations between Palestinians and the family have been strained ever since. A group of Palestinians organized King Abdullah's assassination in 1951 at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. King Hussein, who was wounded in the attack that killed his father, fought a civil war with Yasser Arafat's PLO in 1970 resulting in the deaths of many thousands of Palestinians and the expulsion of all armed Palestinians to southern Lebanon (these fighters sparked off a 15-year civil war between Muslims and Christians in their new host country; more than 100,000 people were killed by their neighbors (plus a few thousand more when Israel invaded from 1982-85)).

After Palestinian sovereignty the next important event to watch for is an Islamic revolution in Egypt, a country with a population of 70 million and an economy twice the size of Israel's. Currently the population is kept under control by a 500,000-man military that has modernized its capabilities with $38 billion in U.S. military aid between 1978 and 2000. The army spends much of its time finding, torturing, and killing Islamic fundamentalists but still has plenty of energy left over to train for a big battle with Israel. If the Muslim Brotherhood manages to seize power in Egypt the Israel Defense Forces could face their toughest challenges since the 1973 Ramadan War.

What can we, as average American citizens, do?

Terrorism is funded by wealth. There are plenty of poor people in this world who hate the U.S. but we never hear from them because they can't afford airplane tickets, weapons, training, etc. When people get richer they buy more of all the things that they enjoy. If you give extra money to a group of French people you'll see that some is spent on fancy wine and cheese. Flip on the TV and watch Muslims worldwide celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center or the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia. These are folks who will spend a portion of any new wealth on the killing of Americans. The principal source of Muslim wealth is oil. As a society the most effective way that we can protect ourselves from Muslim violence is by reducing our consumption of oil. They may still hate us but they will have less money to put their hatred into action.

Oil is an especially bad thing to buy and burn. Any country that earns most of its income from natural resource extraction is a place where it is easy for a ruling elite to transfer that income into its pockets. You don't need the consent or assistance of your subjects to strike a deal with a foreign oil company and watch them extract the product. Burning oil contributes to air pollution and atmospheric carbon dioxide, thus leading to global warming. "Roughly half the oil consumed in the US goes for cars and trucks," noted the Wall Street Journal on March 18, 2003. The same article quotes Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani in 1981: "If we force Western countries to invest heavily in finding alternative sources of energy, they will. This will take them no more than seven to 10 years and will result in their reduced dependence on oil as a source of energy to a point which will jeopardize Saudi Arabia's interests."

If we were to tax oil to reflect its true military and environmental cost it would encourage investment in more fuel-efficient technology. Half of our oil is burned up in cars and trucks whose powerplants are scarcely different from the engine in a Model T Ford. One can build an engine with precise computer-controlled solenoid-lifted valves rather than a sloppy camshaft but when gas is cheap it isn't worth the extra capital cost (see "Why Not a 40-MPG SUV? Technology exists to double gas guzzlers' fuel efficiency. So what's the holdup?" in the November 2002 Technology Review). Toyota and Honda showrooms offer hybrid cars that get 50 miles per gallon but at current gas prices it takes years to recover the higher initial investment. High-tech windmills are good enough that Denmark is able to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind power; in the U.S. it is slightly cheaper to take a fossilized dinosaur from Venezuela and light it on fire so that's what we do. Would you invest in genetic engineering of bacteria that could separate hydrogen fuel from water if you knew that a Sheik in Riyadh could wipe out your company with the stroke of a pen?

If you want to know who is funding terrorists, look in the vanity mirror as you turn the key of your SUV. If you want to stop funding terrorists, work for a $20/barrel tax on imported oil and a $10/barrel tax on domestic oil, which doesn't require an expensive military to defend but we still want to discourage its use to curb pollution. The tax should be phased in over five years, thus giving businesses and consumers time to replace inefficient older machines.

Terrorism is theater. Terrorism will taper off if people lose interest in news coverage of acts of terror. It is tough to ignore a spectacular event such as the destruction of the World Trade Center but we can do our share by ignoring newspaper and television stories about run-of-the-mill terrorism. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like a traffic accident on Interstate 95: a tragedy for the handful of people involved that wouldn't have affected the rest of us if we hadn't slowed down to gawk. The last couple of years have been the most violent and even so the number of people killed on both sides has been about 1000 per year. Shouldn't this many deaths provoke our sympathy and interest? If we're motivated by humanitarian concerns there are richer opportunities for saving lives right here at home. For example, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 Americans are killed every year by medical malpractice (To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, Kohn et al, 2000). The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that 41,821 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2000, at a cost to the economy of $230.6 billion, not including intangibles such as physical pain or reduced quality of life (link). Many of these deaths could be prevented with simple engineering, information system, and procedural improvements. If we want to be unselfish and help foreigners we might look at malaria, a preventable disease that kills between 1 and 3 million people each year.

More

Table of Middle Eastern Countries

Area Population Density
Israel 20,330 6,029,529 297
Egypt 995,450 70,712,345 71
Lebanon 10,230 3,677,780 360
Jordan 91,971 5,307,470 58
Syria 184,050 17,155,814 93
Iraq 432,162 24,001,816 56
Iran 1636000 66,622,704 41
Saudi Arabia 1,960,582 23,513,330 12
Yemen 527,970 18,701,257 35
Oman 212,460 2,713,462 13
United Arab Emirates 82,880 2,445,989 30
Sudan 2,505,810 37,090,298 15
Total Middle East 8,659,895 277,971,794 32
Israel's percentage 0.23 2
India 2,973,190 1,045,845,226 352
United States 8,000,000 280,562,489 35
0.23% of US: 18,781
Florida 151,670 16,396,515 108
Sources: Country areas and population from the CIA
Factbook 2002; Florida data from US
Census Bureau

Text and photos copyright Philip Greenspun, 1994-2003. Reuse of photos permitted with hyperlinked credit. Republication of text permitted if published in its entirety.
philg@mit.edu

Reader's Comments

Literacy, and oil. You mentioned literacy a lot.

I also heard once that there is a strong correlation with wealth and human rights abuses and civil war. in the nations of africa with having plentiful natural resources. I think it was Tantalum (high capacity capacitors) and Emeralds, along with oil (of course) and some other highly profitable natural resources.

So sad.

-- Stephen De Gabrielle, April 15, 2003

Showing that reducing our dependance on oil is an effective means of combatting of terrorism is good thinking but it is possible to go a step further.

Part of the reason we burn fossil fuels is that we use a monetary system where hoarding the means of exchange is encouraged by the fact that it bears interest. This encourages short term thinking. Assuming there was only one model of car with the only difference being how long it lasted. It is in my interest to buy 10 cars which lasts 10 years for $10000 apiece rather than 1 car which lasts 100 years for $100000. I can invest the money in the meantime and it will grow thanks to compound interest.

The solution to many political, social and environmental problems is to adopt a monetary system which is not based on scarcity and does not encourage hoarding of the means of exchange. See Bernard Lietaer's website for more details http://www.transaction.net/money/cc/cc01.html



-- Simon Tzu, April 15, 2003

Why are palestinians so violent? Because the Israelis have settled in their land .My perspective is that of all Irish People who are born and live here in our island. We have been taught , literally for hundreds of years , to hate "the settlers". In the part of Ireland , the Republic , where these settlers (since 1922)are no longer of political importance (but valued citizens), we have no bad feelings based on ethnicity or religion to them . They treated us openly as inferiors and savages for generations , nobody could (or should ) care less what they once did. In Northern Ireland , after over 30 years of violence , the settlers (Protestants) and the aboriginal inhabitants (Catholics) , the hatred is still there where these communities actually live side by side , but the political groups who represent them , after realising that neither side could overcome the other , are on the brink of a final power sharing agreement to dump all the guns . They hate the Israelis because they feel submerged by settlers who never appear to have shown them respect.

-- des fitzgerald, April 15, 2003
Great reading, as always. I would just like to add some information that may be useful for readers:



-- Fazal Majid, April 15, 2003
Lots of good info, but would point out that global warming is a farce - as you should know, with your CS degree, that the mathematical models used on even the biggest supercomputers like the one in Japan are not complex enough to give accurate results (for instance, there is no accurate model for the 75% of the earth's surface that is covered by water in terms of what the ocean will do with more heat).

Was also a little surprised that you did not mention the more evangelical or fundamentalist Christians in the USA who are very strongly pro-Israel. The State Dept and often the President's close advisors in times past have wanted to throw away the US-Israel relationship but have been stopped in part by the 20 or 30 million pro-Israel folks represented by Dobson, Falwell, etc.

-- Patrick Giagnocavo, April 15, 2003

Philip,

"The fact that the Palestinians are living in and among the Jews and would be killed alongside them might be the only thing that gives a nuclear-capable Arab pause."

I thought much of this article was well written and fairly calm and even-handed, but this particular comment struck me as unnecessary and exaggerated. Would not such a person also be concerned about the destruction of holy sites (eg Jerusalem), or perhaps the wrath of third parties (eg the US)?

-- blank blank, April 15, 2003

Phil,

This effort to claim that religious hatred is "fundamental" is pure BS. Jews are well-integrated into quite a few Muslim countries. E.g. Jews have played a dominant role in Ottoman culture ever since a large group that escaped the Spanish inquisition was welcomed in Istanbul, and more recently more Jews escaped to Turkey than the United States during World War II. Is there no religious hatred or bias ? Obviously not, nutcases exist in every religion. But I don't share your belief that hatred is fundamental and that religions are necessarily diametrically opposed and at odds with each other. I find that rather grim, and to be honest, boring vision for the future.

-- Ahmet Unal, April 15, 2003

In the section, Why do Muslims hate the United States?, in all fairness, Clinton's lack of intervention in Rawanda can be partially ascribed to the disaster in Mogadishu. Nation building requires Marshall Plan planning and not ad hoc mission-creep. This should not, however, rule out having a deployable interventionist plan for future Rawandas.

-- Jesse Burkhardt, April 15, 2003
Congratulations on a wonderful well thought out and concise piece of writing.

A couple of questions relating to this that has been bugging me over the years:
When does might make right (eg freedom fighter / terrorist) ?
At what point do people have claim to a homeland (eg a certain tenure / force of arms / first in first served etc) ?

As an Indian, born in New Zealand but working in the UK this has interested me as it relates to indiginous peoples in New Zealand where almost everyone can be considered an immigrant.

From Maori activists claiming to have been swindled by the English (weren't the Moriori in NZ first ?) to the (very) occassionaly racists in NZ ("Go home, Ghandi" - home would be where exactly ?) it seems to be at the heart of most territorial disputes. I guess the more 'civilized' and multicultural the country the less of a problem this seems to be (for example the UK doesn't seem to have a Celtic uprising claiming reparations and land back from various colonisers...).

At what point do you start and settle negotiations before moving on as members of the greater humanity ?

Again I don't know the answers but it certainly does make you think.

-- Raj Patel, April 16, 2003

Philip,

Your insights and facts are provocative and profound.

I'd like to think we can find ways to reduce Palestinian terrorism against Israel. For starters, we have removed the suicide scholarships from Iraq, can we seize those from Iran through Syria and Hezbullah? But in the longer run, we must make Palestinians wealthier and better educated, so the suicide option is simply less attractive.

Palestinians, especially those in the diaspora, are as liberal minded as any other Arab national grouping. What they and Israel need is a prosperous Palestine surrounding and effectively protecting the Jewish state.

This modest proposal assumes enough land to bring home much of the diaspora. We can double the size of Palestine by demanding that surrounding Arab states allow their Palestinian brothers dual citizenship and full rights to land ownership in a set of buffer zones with significant ties to the traditionalists who see it as once part of a Greater Israel.

We would move the nominal million residents of UNRWA camps into permanent housing. Current welfare payments could change to business and infrastructure investment.

My suggestion is to call this newly extended state Greater Palestine.

It would include a circumferential crescent-shaped highway that might strike fear into the hearts of Israeli military planners, unless they can be convinced that most drivers are prosperous Palestinian businessmen and families on their way to the beaches at Tyre in Lebanon and El Arish in Egypt.

Please check out www.greaterpalestine.org.

It is also playing at www.filastinakbar.org, which needs an Arabic localization.

-- Bob Doyle, April 16, 2003

> Europeans provide no financial support to the State of Israel

Germany has provided plenty of aid (reparations) to Israel in the recent past, though that may have tapered off lately.

> The surviving descendant's of Germany's 500,000 pre-war Jews > are not going to attempt to return to Berlin.

Perhaps not, but when I was in Berlin last year I was impressed to find out that German law allows any Jew to immigrate to Germany, something many Russian-born Jews seemed to have taken advantage of. http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/archive_mn/nov_1997-11mn.html

-- Kai Carver, April 17, 2003

You're missing a couple of key points.

Israel is a democracy. America, especially lately, always attempts to support and preserve democracies, because we feel its in our interest to do so. We were less able to do this during the Cold War, and made some huge blunders in this regard (Iran, Vietnam). There's been a gradual shift in foreign policy since 1990 towards promoting democracy and human rights as a long term goal at the expense of short term goals.. I write about that here.

For a long time, US policy was for the Israelis and Palestinians to live together in harmony. We basically felt that the Israeli and Palestinian economies were too interdependent for them to survive separately. We've finally given up on that. Our current goal is for a separate state for the Palestinians, even if we end up with a "Tel Aviv" wall.

-- Pierce Wetter, April 18, 2003

It is delightful to hear something new about a well-worn topic. There is another reason why many Americans accept Jews more these days. American Jews are very Americanized now, it is getting hard to identify them. I hardly ever see a yarmulke in public. Pervasive intermarriage accentuates this mixing. So, many people think Jews are normal people. This acceptance of Jews rubs off on Israel too. Israelis are just a bunch of Jews living somewhere else. They seem like normal people too.

-- Marc Feldman, April 18, 2003
The Jews of America have declined in number to 5.2 million or less than 2 percent of the population. Politicians like rich people so you'd think that the fact that American Jewish households had a median income of $50,000 per year might give them more clout than the average American household with its $42,000 income (source: National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001).

These are fairly misleading statistics. First, there is the comparison of average to median--which in a situation where income and wealth is concentrated is tricky. More important, the real influence over the political process comes from the wealthier Americans--note the word _wealthier_ not higher income. According to Morley Sachar's Modern Jewish History, Jews made up about 40% of all millionaires in the United States in the early 60's. The more recent popular book, "The Millionaire Next Door" includes "Russians" and "Poles"--most of whom are religiously Jewish- in the US as among the few large ethnic groups with more Millionaires per capita than the general population--the others are Scots and Dutch(groups that were present in large numbers in the founding of the United States and are included among rural landowners in large numbers).

Now, the situation with political donations is also significant: Democratic fundraisers estimate that at least half of the money donated by individuals -- but excluding labor unions and political action committees -- to the national committees comes from Jewish donors.

According to research by University of Akron political scientist John Green and several colleagues, "Jews accounted for 21 percent of donors to the Democratic presidential primaries in 2000," or at least $13 million out of $62 million raised by Gore and former senator Bill Bradley (N.J.).

Now, what this means in plain terms is that noone is going anywhere in the Democratic party if they substantially alienate Jewish donors.

This situation in the GOP is a little more complicated. The San Jose Mercury News put the figure for individual donations to the GOP from Jews at 20% or so(together the figures are about right for a group that make up a substantial portion of American Millionaires). What is probably more important to the GOP is that the lion's share of Fundamentalist Christians are strongly pro-Israel---and the GOP is extremely dependent upon that group for campaign volenteers.

Another major factor is substantial Jewish involvement in mass media. Suffice it to say that Ted Turner is a mere token. There are enough Jews in positions of power in the media that is rather difficult for anyone to function in the media while maintaining an over anti-Israel position.



-- NoMore H-1b, April 22, 2003

One thing after thinking about it, the attitudes attributed here to all Americans towards Israelis may be more typical of the attitudes of American Jews towards Israelis. What would attitudes towards US Jews be today if there were instead of 5.2 Million Jews in the US(and another number of folks with a Jewish grandparent or two that don't really identify as Jewish like Sen. Kerry from Massachusetts)-there were and additional 7-8 million Jews in the US? Israelis really do have different attitudes from US Jews-they are more militaristic and on the whole more moralistic.

Jews have played a major role in US immigration policy. The leaders British ethnics that founded the US pretty consistently voiced the opinion they wanted to keep the US pretty much as it was-and just didn't quite understand how profoundly immigration would change the ethnic mix of the US. Did Jews really want to see major Jewish immigration to the US immediately after WW II or through 1965(when immigration laws were substantially changed)?

Just FYI, I would personally support significant taxes on imported oil in the US--if this meant equivalent reduction of taxes on lower wage earners. Now, it isn't clear to me that the existing government is capable of accurately asessing "social and environmental costs"(just like Greenpun here can't figure out who really controls wealth in the United States). The US has had economic capacity for energy self-sufficiency for a while. Prior to WW II, the US was enormously innovative in areas like energy and transportation technology-the last few decades, it has lost its nerve--and become the world's largest debtor nation and an industrial weakling.

-- NoMore H-1b, April 22, 2003

Perhaps the tolerant paradise Ahmet Unal writes about existed in some Muslim countries in 1492 or 1917 or 1945. It exists in no Muslim countries today.

-- Robert Teeter, April 22, 2003
Unfortunately, the paper is not complete, and someone only reading this would leave with the idea that the jewish people (and specifically the Isrealites) have done absolutely nothing wrong and have simply been oppressed since the beginning of time.

The entire question of settlements, for instance, has been ignored. Surely Palestinians having their homes bulldozed and then jewish settlements built on top of them has something to do with why Israel is so hated?



-- Karl Low, April 23, 2003

I think Phil's point was that this conflict goes *way* further back than the recent atrocities committed by extremists like Netanyahu and Sharon, and that so does the Palestinian Constitution, which accepts nothing but total destruction of Israel as a goal.

If you had a group of people living on your doorstep with the stated goal of destroying your country, you might or might not do unforgivable things to prevent them from becoming a sovereign nation. But those unforgiveable things are not the problem. (Not that I forgive them)

Recall that before Netanyahu there were peaceful Israeli prime ministers, who in general did *not* make settlements in Gaza and who did *not* send bulldozers. They also offered sovereign land to the Palestinians. Arafat refused all their deals. Palestine did not remove "destruction" from its constitution.

-- Steve R, April 24, 2003

Phil --

I think you've missed the whole cycle of revenge. I'm Irish, so I've seen it up close, in Northern Ireland -- and I hope I'm seeing the end of it, too, these days.

Here's how it works. As one comment said above, it starts with settlement; your family lives in a place for generations, maybe they have a nice house or farm, then some "outsiders" are settled on that land and you're told to leave. You resent this, for obvious reasons, and vow to fight back to regain what was yours. You fight back, they fight back, it escalates, it goes on for years, escalating and calming down periodically in response to external events. This is what happened in South Africa and NI.

Eventually, assuming it's got to the stage it's at in Israel/Palestine, you're at a stage where one side is saying "ethnic group A committed Atrocity A. Never forget!" and the other is saying "ethnic group B committed Atrocity B. Never forget!". There's no cross-community dialogue.

In addition, there's been a whole generation of people who've lived in poverty. Currently, 60% are below the poverty line, and there's 60-65% unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It's very easy -- and encouraged by Extremist Group A -- to blame it on ethnic group B.

(Mind you, the current situation where Palestine is not permitted to export goods except via Israel, the number of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel is less than 5% of what it was in 2000, and where the World Bank reckons that some $5 billion of the Palestinian GDP has been wiped out by the recent siege "due to Israeli closure of Palestinian towns and villages and the movement restrictions put on people and goods", does not help at all. I haven't even mentioned the creation of new settlements.)

So given that, you've got a generation of young men who live in poverty, under-educated, with no jobs, who blame ethnic group B (egged on by extremists who gain power due to this). You've also got a generation of children growing up who see nothing else but this life, because there are no jobs, no schools, and nothing but poverty. So they fight back in the only way they know -- the one everyone talks about -- the suicide bomber.

In the meantime, suicide bombings horrify the population of ethnic group B, who seem them as an atrocity (which they are). Their (right-wing militaristic) government vows to "crack down" on the causes of this -- the hotbeds of terrorism, the slums where these bombers are coming from. So they send in the bulldozers, snipers, and tanks. In all this, innocent people get killed. This is then seen by ethnic group A as an atrocity, who want revenge. So it's tit-for-tat atrocities. One breeds the next.

The only way out IMO is to first, get everyone at the same economic level, so nobody's starving in a hole while they look at ethnic group B and saying "they have everything, we have nothing". Then embark on compromise, forgiveness, establishing cross-community bonds, peace-building, and power-sharing. Compromise and forgiveness are the only ways to *remove* the power from the extremists who are driving the whole trouble.

This worked in South Africa, and it's working in NI. It's important to note, too, that in those places the extremist organizations spouted the "liberation" bullshit in their publications, that it was all about homeland, the pope is the Antichrist, etc.; but once power-sharing and peace became possible, the pragmatic, peaceful negotiators could sideline the scary bomb-throwers. There's no reason why the same can't work in Israel/Palestine.

OK, next! The stuff about "it's fundamental religious hatred" is rubbish, frankly. The Palestinians could be Christians and the Israelis Muslims and I really don't think it'd make a difference, apart from in the extremists' "here's why god says you should throw bombs" rhetoric. It's purely community-versus-community. It's convenient that the sides are predominantly of one religion, but I betcha there's Christians on both sides too. Also, take a look at South Africa -- that was a similar struggle, without a religious divide AFAIK.

Next, regarding the US' role and 'why do Muslims hate the US?' -- you say "Ask Joe Foreigner what upsets him most about the U.S. Top on the list is the fact that the U.S. is too interventionist, swaggering cowboy-like with military power into complex international situations. Complaint #2, however, is that the U.S. failed to intervene in a particular situation that is near and dear to Joe's heart. They hate us because we are too interventionist... except when we're not inventionist enough."

That's way too simplistic. The point of those two arguments is that the US will intervene in situations where much of the world thinks it should not (e.g. Venezuela recently), while not intervening (or intervening in the wrong way) in situations where much of the world thinks it should (Israel/Palestine).

I really think the whole 'Muslims want to drive fast cars, that's why they hate the US' argument is totally wrong. More correctly, the muslims are seeing their own ethnic group in Palestine getting beat down by Israel, which receives lots of funding from the US, while the US will not even make the diplomatic noises that Britain (which started the whole mess in the first place ;) does, let alone any idea of intervening. In the meantime the US is happy to invade Iraq. So they see double standards, favouritism, and their own ethnic group coming out worst.

Finally, I really don't know where you're getting this "every other country wants the Jews to go away and live in Israel" thing. I can see no basis for this in the modern world. Perhaps in the first half of the 20th century, when there were millions of Jewish people all leaving due to oppression, and seeking a new home, it was a big issue for other countries; but in the last 20 years I don't think I've ever heard anyone outside the far right, neo-nazi groups say that (in Europe at least).

-- Justin Mason, April 25, 2003

The idea that the USA is assisting Israel because the world needs a dumping place for Jews is rather depressing (specially for me, a Jew). If that is the idea, then Israel IS worth its money, as it keeps Jews busy trying to survive and with no spare time to make fun of academic authorities.

-- Jaim Klein, April 30, 2003
Robert Teeter wrote

The entire question of settlements, for instance, has been ignored. Surely Palestinians having their homes bulldozed and then jewish settlements built on top of them has something to do with why Israel is so hated?

===

It is funny, but it looks that no one outside Israel knows that no settlement is built at place of arab village or even arab field.

By Turkish law land belong to one who built house or planted tree there. Israel have precedent law system so the law still works.

In Kiryat Arba near Hevron several arab owned fields divide parts of the city. Most of settlements are built on hilltops because valleys nearby are owned by arabs. In Israel you can still find abandoned arab villages that hold valuable land but can not be taken or built-on.

-- Ilya Davydov, May 11, 2003

Lemma: In the long run profits are maximized in stable, thriving, secure economies inhabited by educated peoples secure in their human rights.

The selfish view towards maximizing profits then prescribes that we implement foreign policies that prefer human rights over crony capitolism. Short term profits may suffer. The Fords, IBMs, IT&Ts, Michelins, Texacos, Shells, Unocals, Haliburtons may suffer and lose market share and even markets to newcomers, but in the long run global profits will be maximized.

And as a nice after thought, we'll have populations of educated citizens, secure in their human rights and democratic processes.

-- jerry asher, May 15, 2003

One commentator mentioned the US religious right but in fact many middle-of-the-road American Christians feel happy knowing that "our" brand of mystics is in possesion of Jerusalem -- American being a Christian nation, and all that. It fits their half-thought-through teleological notions quite well. I can recall my own public gradeschool history teacher telling me that the crusaders had been vindicated by the Ottoman collapse at end of WWI. Religious mysticism has infinite capacity for rationalization -- if Jesus was the King of the Jews, then having Jews in Israel is okay because after all Jews are just Christians "on hold," waiting for the okay to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (as opposed to evil Muslims, who have deliberately bypassed Jesus and proceeded directly from Abraham to that upstart Mohammed). In every case, the groups believe that they are the Chosen People of the invisible sky-guy. As such, no amount of brutality and mayhem is beyond rationalization, because believers are doing it for the sake of imagined issues larger than mere life and death, longer than history, and contemptuous toward the notion of human choice and self-determination.

Literacy? I wonder if David Hume is available in Arabic or Hebrew.

-- Kevin Bjorke, May 15, 2003

Googling for "UN Palestine Israel" brings up this page from the United Nations web site: HISTORY OF THE PALESTINE PROBLEM, which readers may find an illuminating counterpoint to Phil's essay. (Be sure to follow the links to the more in-depth material.)

-- d robinson, June 30, 2003
Philip,

While I always enjoy your texts on the various subjects that we share interest in, I can't help but notice that expertise in one area does not lead to expertise in another.

In this case, your overview of the situation seems to build a narrative based on facts selected by your hunch, and it is not clear your hunch here is as good as in, say, computers or photography. Selection of facts, as you well know, may distort the story, or even may create a story where there is none.

A small example, just an example, is how Egypt made peace with Israel. You say it coincided with the latter acquiring a substantial nuclear arsenal; this seems to be correct. You also say it was caused by the nukes becoming available; this does not seem to be so. Reasons for the peace agreement were more complex; Sadat actually indicated a wish to have peace and diplomatic relations with Israel in the early 1970s, but they had to go through a war before they could get it. His rationale was not based on Israeli WMD. King Hussein of Jordan had been in "secret" cohouts with Israel for many, many years before he formally signed a peace agreement with Israel; nukes did not play any role in this whatsoever.

Oh, and when you say in order to help Israel we need to improve mpg, it's a bit like saying in order to prevent blackouts, we need to use candles. (This analogy is a stretch, and so is the Israel-to-mpg logic in the article.)

Even so, reading your output is always a pleasure, both intellectual and aesthetical. Thank you.

Simon

-- Simon Hawkin, September 20, 2003

Here is what everyone seems to leave out when they discuss the question of "why does the U.S. blindly support Israel?"

The U.S. is a Christian nation, and thus, it cannot escape its Christain/religious duty to protect Israel. More simply, because of the need to fulfill biblical prophecy, Israel has to continue to exist and remain whole, in order for Christ to return.

I know that this type of comment has no place in an academic discussion, but having a degree in political science, and having studied the culture/region, I see no political benefit ( I find your analysis or explanation lacking)for the U.S. to support Israel...The U.S. is merely pushing along biblical prophecy, and performing its Christian duty to protect Israel..."Gods chose people".

S.T.



-- steven Todorovic, August 15, 2005

I read through this article and the comments wondering how long it would take the god botherers to put in an appearance and, sure enough, up they popped. You missed them out of the main article, which is a shame because they are, I'm afraid, very much a part of the problem and no part of the solution. I won't go so far as to say that all religious people are hypocrites or lunatics because I've met enough to know that they are not. On the other hand, anyone who tells you that he knows the truth, and you have to believe him, is certainly one or the other.

Some conditions have no cure, other than time. The middle east conflicts are all too perfect examples of this. There are people of good will on all sides of the conflict but there are also the troublemakers I referred to above, who don't want a solution that doesn't put them personally in a position of power over others. My own prediction is that this mess will grow steadily worse over the next two centuries or however long it takes to industrialise the middle east and create strong middle classes in all the affected territories. Unfortunately, the biggest brake on such progress is an unholy alliance of the rulers and the clergy in these countries, who have a vested interest in maintaining the 30% illiteracy figure you mention in the article. The last thing they want, is an educated majority questioning their actions.

Recent events have shown that the religious loonies have a method to their madness. Hezbolla and their Iranian masters were clearly uncomfortable with the truce between the fledgeling (and largely secular) Lebanese government and Israel. They made a series of attacks on Israel, which were militarily pointless, and succeeded in goading Ehud Olmert into a vicious and equally pointless retaliation. Any good strategist would have predicted Olmert's response, given his shaky position and the narrow majority of the coalition he heads. At the cost of a lot of dead Lebanese (and if there's one thing a god botherer of either brand doesn't worry about, it's another dead body) they succeeded in shifting world public opinion somewhatly more to their side.

-- H P, September 3, 2006

I personally support the nation of Israel,for only through this that I can show my faith to the GOD that bless them so much.Leave Israel alone,from the time the LORD brought them out from the land of Egypt to the land where their GOD promised them, a land flowing with milk and honey, their GOD never leave them..Oh Israel, how long will you be forgetful to your God..oh Israel,remember that pillar of cloud during the day that you will not be walking under the heat of the sun..remember that pillar of fire that you will not be walking under thick darkness and that the sting of serpent in the wilderness will be far from you..remember your God oh Israel.

-- Robert Corpuz, October 15, 2009
ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. It doesn't take much imagination to extrapolate the message to the rest of Europe - and possibly to the rest of the world. REMEMBER AS YOU READ -- IT WAS IN A SPANISH PAPER Date: Tue. 15 January 2008 14:30 ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz .. We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world. The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned. And under the pretence of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride. They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime. Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts. And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs. What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe .. The Global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world's population. They have received the following Nobel Prizes: Literature: 1988 - Najib Mahfooz Peace: 1978 - Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat 1990 - Elias James Corey 1994 - Yaser Arafat: 1999 - Ahmed Zewai Economics: (zero) Physics: (zero) Medicine: 1960 - Peter Brian Medawar 1998 - Ferid Mourad TOTAL: 7 SEVEN The Global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000; that is FOURTEEN MILLION or about 0.02% of the world's population. They have received the following Nobel Prizes: Literature: 1910 - Paul Heyse 1927 - Henri Bergson 1958 - Boris Pasternak 1966 - Shmuel Yosef Agnon 1966 - Nelly Sachs 1976 - Saul Bellow 1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer 1981 - Elias Canetti 1987 - Joseph Brodsky 1991 - Nadine Gordimer World Peace: 1911 - Alfred Fried 1911 - Tobias Michael Carel Asser 1968 - Rene Cassin 1973 - Henry Kissinger 1978 - Menachem Begin 1986 - Elie Wiesel 1994 - Shimon Peres 1994 - Yitzhak Rabin Physics: 1905 - Adolph Von Baeyer 1906 - Henri Moissan 1907 - Albert Abraham Michelson 1908 - Gabriel Lippmann 1910 - Otto Wallach 1915 - Richard Willstaetter 1918 - Fritz Haber 1921 - Albert Einstein 1922 - Niels Bohr 1925 - James Franck 1925 - Gustav Hertz 1943 - Gustav Stern 1943 - George Charles de Hevesy 1944 - Isidor Issac Rabi 1952 - Felix Bloch 1954 - Max Born 1958 - Igor Tamm 1959 - Emilio Segre 1960 - Donald A. Glaser 1961 - Robert Hofstadter 1961 - Melvin Calvin 1962 - Lev Davidovich Landau 1962 - Max Ferdinand Perutz 1965 - Richard Phillips Feynman 1965 - Julian Schwinger 1969 - Murray Gell-Mann 1971 - Dennis Gabor 1972 - William Howard Stein 1973 - Brian David Josephson 1975 - Benjamin Mottleson 1976 - Burton Richter 1977 - Ilya Prigogine 1978 - Arno Allan Penzias 1978 - Peter L Kapitza 1979 - Stephen Weinberg 1979 - Sheldon Glashow 1979 - Herbert Charles Brown 1980 - Paul Berg 1980 - Walter Gilbert 1981 - Roald Hoffmann 1982 - Aaron Klug 1985 - Albert A. Hauptman 1985 - Jerome Karle 1986 - Dudley R. Herschbach 1988 - Robert Huber 1988 - Leon Lederman 1988 - Melvin Schwartz 1988 - Jack Steinberger 1989 - Sidney Altman 1990 - Jerome Friedman 1992 - Rudolph Marcus 1995 - Martin Perl 2000 - Alan J. Heeger Economics: 1970 - Paul Anthony Samuelson 1971 - Simon Kuznets 1972 - Kenneth Joseph Arrow 1975 - Leonid Kantorovich 1976 - Milton Friedman 1978 - Herbert A. Simon 1980 - Lawrence Robert Klein 1985 - Franco Modigliani 1987 - Robert M. Solow 1990 - Harry Markowitz 1990 - Merton Miller 1992 - Gary Becker 1993 - Robert Fogel Medicine: 1908 - Elie Metchnikoff 1908 - Paul Erlich 1914 - Robert Barany 1922 - Otto Meyerhof 1930 - Karl Landsteiner 1931 - Otto Warburg 1936 - Otto Loewi 1944 - Joseph Erlanger 1944 - Herbert Spencer Gasser 1945 - Ernst Boris Chain 1946 - Hermann Joseph Muller 1950 - Tadeus Reichstein 1952 - Selman Abraham Waksman 1953 - Hans Krebs 1953 - Fritz Albert Lipmann 1958 - Joshua Lederberg 1959 - Arthur Kornberg 1964 - Konrad Bloch 1965 - Francois Jacob 1965 - Andre Lwoff 1967 - George Wald 1968 - Marshall W. Nirenberg 1969 - Salvador Luria 1970 - Julius Axelrod 1970 - Sir Bernard Katz 1972 - Gerald Maurice Edelman 1975 - Howard Martin Temin 1976 - Baruch S. Blumberg 1977 - Roselyn Sussman Yalow 1978 - Daniel Nathans 1980 - Baruj Benacerraf 1984 - Cesar Milstein 1985 - Michael Stuart Brown 1985 - Joseph L. Goldstein 1986 - Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini] 1988 - Gertrude Elion 1989 - Harold Varmus 1991 - Erwin Neher 1991 - Bert Sakmann 1993 - Richard J. Roberts 1993 - Phillip Sharp 1994 - Alfred Gilman 1995 - Edward B. Lewis 1996- Lu RoseIacovino TOTAL: 129! The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don't hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people. The Jews don't traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels. Perhaps the world's Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems. Muslims must ask 'what can they do for humankind' before they demand that humankind respects them. Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel 's part, the following two sentences really say it all: 'If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel ." Benjamin Netanyahu General Eisenhower Warned Us. It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said in words to this effect: 'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened' Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offends' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it. It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were 'murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated' while the German people looked the other way. Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people. Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world. How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center 'NEVER HAPPENED' because it offends some Muslim in the United States ?

-- bryan dill, April 10, 2011
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