The purpose of my fictional story about Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis ("Allahu Akbar and a Bang") was to relate to the readers my strong personal emotions regarding these incidents. Having experienced an Arab terror attack, I wanted to paint an intimate picture of the conflict that reaches us in the form of dry news and dehumanized debate. My article was meant to convey a profound sympathy for the Israeli victims together with a profound anger at their Palestinian murderers and the society which produces and glorifies them. It was a fictional story from one point of view, but all events which it described, from the behavior of suicide bombers before detonation to mass Palestinian celebrations after detonation, were based on reported facts.
It was not meant to be an invitation to debate and I have a feeling that in her article "The Other Side of the Story," Justine Simon misinterpreted it as an attempt at serious intellectual disputation over the Arab-Israeli conflict. Having absolutely no patience for accounts of Israeli pain and becoming enraged at the suggestion that Palestinian society glorifies those who cause this pain, Simon's op-ed was blatantly not meant to give a voice to the Palestinian "other side," but rather to shut up those voices which defend Israel.
Simon's op-ed is brimming with inaccuracies stemming from both ignorance and oversight of basic facts. Yet unlike the rest of her mistakes, her gravest error is not due to intentional subterfuge or ignorance of the realities of the conflict. Her most fatal error, which haunts many Western proponents of the Palestinian cause, is a consequence of blindness to reality caused by an inflexible ideological imperative which severely cripples their world view.
This imperative has been called "cognitive egocentrism," and is a tendency to project one's own mind-set upon others, to refuse to believe that other cultures can have different sets of morals and different prejudices. Cognitive egocentrists are unable rationally to interpret events surrounding members of sufficiently different cultures because they are unable to divorce their own cultural outlook from their awareness of those cultures. If those cultures are committing an atrocity, the Western liberal cognitive egocentrist insists that there must be a good reason, that they must have been sufficiently provoked, that they cannot simply be iniquitous. For Simon, the sole motivating factor behind Palestinian murder of Jews by suicide bombs is an unjust Israeli occupation. She fails to understand the ideological motivation behind Palestinian terror: the anti-Semitism inherent in the current dominant form of Islam and the violent intolerance pervading modern Arab culture. Simon wishes to portray the conflict as a struggle for freedom and normalcy, ignoring the declared goal of the major Palestinian political groups: the eventual destruction of Israel and its Jewish population.
Here is an example of how divorced from reality this outlook is. Simon sanguinely claims, "Suicide bombing is evil. Only the extremists who are willing to engage in such actions, or who stand by and celebrate their martyred brothers would disagree." In the same breath she insists that, "we must remember that there exists a global population of Muslims who live their lives with a normalcy that never makes the evening news."
Somehow she misses the entire point of my op-ed. There is overwhelming evidence showing that the majority of Palestinian society, as well as large portions of Arab and Muslim society, are extreme in their hatred, in their intolerance, and in their blood-lust. They do not think suicide bombings are evil. In fact, they celebrate and honor those who commit them.
I have already stated that in 2002, according to the Palestinian Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, 72 percent of the Palestinians supported suicide bombings. However, suicide bombers are given much more than passive support. Suicide bombers are honored and young people are urged to aspire to their acts by all levels of Palestinian society. Palestinian children are urged to murder Jews and die as martyrs by religious authorities, members of the academia, school curricula, the entertainment industry and their own parents.
At the religious level, imams preach the necessity of suicide bombing. On Aug. 3, 2001, Imam Ibrahim Maadi was shown on official PA TV reciting this Friday sermon: "The Jews have bared their teeth ... and they will not be deterred except by the color of blood in their filthy people. We will blow them up in Hadera, we will blow them up in Tel-Aviv and in Netanya, so that Allah will place us as masters upon this riff-raff. ... Blessings upon he who has taught his sons the education of Jihad and Martyrdom. Blessings upon he who has saved one bullet in order to put it through a Jew's head."
Palestinian academics demand the murder of Jews. The Rector of Advanced Studies at the Islamic University in Gaza insisted on PA TV in 2000: "The Jews are Jews. Whether Labor or Likud, the Jews are Jews. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed."
Palestinian textbooks teach children that all of Israel belongs to the Palestinians. Maps of Israel are labeled "Palestine," Israeli cities such as Beersheva are referred to as Palestinian cities, and history books claim that "Palestine was occupied by Israel in 1948."
The Palestinian entertainment industry puts out scores of music videos, concerts and children's shows urging violence and hatred. On an Oct. 22, 2004 children's TV show, a talking puppet is asked what it would do if a boy cut down a tree in front of his house. The puppet's answer? "I'll bring AK-47s and gather the whole world, I'll commit a massacre in front of the house."
Mothers urge their own young sons to explode themselves among the Jews. A current candidate for the PA election on the Hamas list, Um Nidal, is a proud mother of two "martyrs." Before sending one off in 2002 to murder five Jewish schoolboys, she filmed herself with her son and his assault rifle. After his death, she said to the Arab News Network: "I gave my son to Jihad for Allah. It is our religious obligation. If I wanted to have compassion for him, or to make him to [sic] change his mind, it would be wrong, a mistake. I don't want to be guided by my feelings, a mother's feelings." Her stated desire to send all nine of her sons to martyrdom won her the nomination.
Many who ascribe to moral absolutism of total binary parity will try to rationalize this sordid state of Palestinian society by claiming that both sides of the conflict are equally intolerant. Clearly, no conflict is a black and white case of good versus evil. Israel has its own moral problems. Yet, I urge these moral absolutists who see everything in equal shades of gray to find anything within mainstream Israeli society even remotely approaching the level of hatred and blood-thirst in mainstream Palestinian culture. Israeli radicals do exist but they are marginalized and condemned by their society. In Palestinian society, those who the Israelis and other liberal nations would view as dangerous radicals are viewed as heros to be emulated. This is a strictly Palestinian phenomenon in the conflict.
I have little hope of changing the minds of people who rationally support the Palestinian cause. I fear that their ideology makes them blind to reality, even when shown overwhelming evidence of the morally bankrupt state of Palestinian society. But people like Simon must not be allowed to change the minds of rational people in America. Like it or not, we are in the same boat with Israel, adrift amid a storm of Islamist triumphalism and Arab nationalism. And the more aware we are about the nature of this storm, the less chance there is that it will sink us into a cruel and violent abyss.