First the terrorists of the Middle East went after the Israelis. From 1967 we witnessed 40 years of bombers, child murdering, airline hijacking, suicide murdering, and gratuitous shooting. We in the West usually cried crocodile tears, and then came up with all sorts of reasons to allow such Middle Eastern killers a pass.
Yasser Arafat, replete with holster and rants at the U.N., had become a “moderate” and was thus free to steal millions of his good-behavior money. If Hamas got European cash, it would become reasonable, ostracize its “military wing,” and cease its lynching and vigilantism.
When some tried to explain that Wars 1-3 (1947, 1956, 1967) had nothing to do with the West Bank, such bothersome details fell on deaf ears.
When it was pointed out that Germans were not blowing up Poles to get back lost parts of East Prussia nor were Tibetans sending suicide bombers into Chinese cities to recover their country, such analogies were caricatured.
When the call for a “Right of Return” was making the rounds, few cared to listen that over a half-million forgotten Jews had been cleansed from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, and lost billions in property.
When the U.N. and the EU talked about “refugee camps,” none asked why for a half-century the Arab world could not build decent housing for its victimized brethren, or why 1 million Arabs voted in Israel, but not one freely in any Arab country.
The security fence became “The Wall,” and evoked slurs that it was analogous to barriers in Korea or Berlin that more often kept people in than out. Few wondered why Arabs who wished to destroy Israel would mind not being able to live or visit Israel.
In any case, anti-Semitism, oil, fear of terrorism–all that and more fooled us into believing that Israel’s problems were confined to Israel. So we ended up with a utopian Europe favoring a pre-modern, terrorist-run, Palestinian thugocracy over the liberal democracy in Israel. The Jews, it was thought, stirred up a hornet’s nest, and so let them get stung on their own.
We in the United States preened that we were the “honest broker.” After the Camp David accords we tried to be an intermediary to both sides, ignoring that one party had created a liberal and democratic society, while the other remained under the thrall of a tribal gang.
Billions of dollars poured into frontline states like Jordan and Egypt. Arafat himself got tens of millions, though none of it ever seemed to show up in good housing, roads, or power plants for his people. The terror continued, enhanced rather than arrested, by Western largess and Israeli concessions.
Then the Islamists declared war on the United States. A quarter century of mass murdering of Americans followed in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, the first effort to topple the World Trade Center, and the attack on the USS Cole.
We gave billions to Jordan, the Palestinians, and the Egyptians. Afghanistan was saved from the Soviets through U.S. aid. Kuwait was restored after Saddam’s annexation, and the holocaust of Bosnians and Kosovars halted by the American Air Force. Americans welcomed thousands of Arabs to our shores and allowed hundreds of madrassas and mosques to preach zealotry, anti-Semitism, and jihad without much scrutiny.
Then came September 11 and the almost instant canonization of bin Laden.
Suddenly, the prior cheap shots at Israel under siege weren’t so cheap. It proved easy to castigate Israelis who went into Jenin, but not so when we needed to do the same in Fallujah.
It was easy to slander the Israelis’ scrutiny of Arabs in their midst, but then suddenly a few residents in our own country were found to be engaging in bomb making, taking up jihadist pilgrimages to Afghanistan, and mapping out terrorist operations.
Apparently, the hatred of radical Islam was not just predicated on the “occupation” of the West Bank. Instead it involved the pretexts of Americans protecting Saudi Arabia from another Iraqi attack, the United Nations boycott of Iraq, the removal of the Taliban and Saddam, and always as well as the Crusades and the Reconquista.
But Europe was supposedly different. Unlike the United States, it was correct on the Middle East, and disarmed after the Cold War. Indeed, the European Union was pacifistic, socialist, and guilt-ridden about former colonialism.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were left alone in unassimilated European ghettoes and allowed to preach or promulgate any particular hatred of the day they wished. Conspire to kill a Salmon Rushdie, talk of liquidating the “apes and pigs,” distribute Mein Kampf and the Protocols, or plot in the cities of France and Germany to blow up the Pentagon and the World Trade Center–all that was about things “over there” and in a strange way was thought to ensure that Europe got a pass at home.
But the trump card was always triangulation against the United States. Most recently anti-Americanism was good street theater in Rome, Paris, London, and the capitals of the “good” West.
But then came Madrid–and the disturbing fact that after the shameful appeasement of its withdrawal from Iraq, further plots were hatched against Spanish justices and passenger trains.
Surely a Holland would be exempt–Holland of wide-open Amsterdam fame where anything goes and Muslim radicals could hate in peace. Then came the butchering of Theo Van Gogh and the death threats against parliamentarian Hirsi Ali–and always defiance and promises of more to come rather than apologies for their hatred.
Yet was not Britain different? After all, its capital was dubbed Londonistan for its hospitality to Muslims across the globe. Radical imams openly preached jihad against the United States to their flock as thanks for being given generous welfare subsidies from her majesty’s government. But it was the United States, not liberal Britain, that evoked such understandable hatred.
After Holland, Madrid, and London, European operatives go to Israel not to harangue Jews about the West Bank, but to receive tips about preventing suicide bombings. And the cowboy Patriot Act to now-panicked European parliaments perhaps seems not so illiberal after all.
So it is was becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali, Darfur, Iraq, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was not so tied to particular and “understandable” Islamic grievances.
Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S. hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political concessions, restore pride, and prove to Israelis, Europeans, Americans–and about everybody else on the globe–that Middle Eastern warriors were full of confidence and pride after all.
Meanwhile an odd thing happened. It turns out that the jihadists were cowards and bullies, and thus selective in their targets of hatred. A billion Chinese were left alone by radical Islam–even though the Chinese were secularists and mostly godless, as well as ruthless to their own Uighur Muslim minorities. Had bin Laden issued a fatwa against Beijing and slammed an airliner into a skyscraper in Shanghai, there is no telling what a nuclear China might have done.
India too got mostly a pass, other than the occasional murdering by Pakistani zealots. Yet India makes no effort to apologize to Muslims. When extremists occasionally riot and kill, they usually cease quickly before the response of a much more unpredictable angry populace.
What can we learn from all this?
Jihadists hardly target particular countries for their “unfair” foreign policies, since nations on five continents suffer jihadist attacks and thus all apparently must embrace an unfair foreign policy of some sort.
Typical after the London bombing is the ubiquitous Muslim spokesman who when asked to condemn terrorism, starts out by deploring such killing, assuring that it has nothing to do with Islam, yet then ending by inserting the infamous “but”–as he closes with references about the West Bank, Israel, and all sorts of mitigating factors. Almost no secular Middle Easterners or religious officials write or state flatly, “Islamic terrorism is murder, pure and simple evil. End of story, no ifs or buts about it.”
Second, thinking that the jihadists will target only Israel eventually leads to emboldened attacks on the United States. Assuming America is the only target assures terrorism against Europe. Civilizations will either hang separately or triumph over barbarism together. It is that simple–and past time for Europe and the United States to rediscover their common heritage and shared aims in eradicating this plague of Islamic fascism.
Third, Islamicists are selective in their attacks and hatred. So far global jihad avoids two billion Indians and Chinese, despite the fact that their countries are far tougher on Muslims than is the United States or Europe. In other words, the Islamicists target those whom they think they can intimidate and blackmail.
Unfettered immigration, billions in cash grants to Arab autocracies, alliances of convenience with dictatorships, triangulation with Middle Eastern patrons of terror, blaming the Jews–civilization has tried all that.
It is time to relearn the lessons from the Cold War, when we saw millions of noble Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, and Czechs as enslaved under autocracy and a hateful ideology, and in need of democracy before they could confront the Communist terror in their midst.
But until the Wall fell, we did not send billions in aid to their Eastern European dictatorships nor travel freely to Prague or Warsaw nor admit millions of Communist-ruled Bulgarians and Albanians onto our shores.
–Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.