editorial: muslim rage

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Sep. 16, 2003
    Editorial: Muslim rage

    Yesterday, this newspaper ran a headline: "US: Israel shouldn't enrage Muslims." This is odd, coming from the United States. It is a clear throwback to the sentiment in some quarters that if only that thorn, Israel, were to be removed from the paw of the Arabs, things would go more smoothly.

    The headline was based on Secretary of State Colin Powell's comment opposing exiling or harming Yasser Arafat, because "...there would be rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world, and in many other parts of the world." But if one were to follow such logic, does not Israel have at least as great grounds for complaint against the US? If assuaging radical Arab sensibilities should be a centerpiece of Western policy, would not a headline "Israel: US shouldn't enrage Muslims" be in order?

    The US, after all, has recently invaded two Muslim countries and toppled their regimes; it occupies both and rules one of them directly. Along the way, the US has used aerial bombings against key targets in civilian areas in Afghanistan and Iraq, almost certainly killing more Muslim civilians than Israel has over the past three years.

    At the same time, the US supports some Muslim regimes, such as in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that are not held in high esteem by their citizens so much so that it is not thought to be a coincidence that all of the 9/11 terrorists who attacked America came from those two countries.

    If sparking Muslim rage is a problem, than we here are amateurs compared to the US. Nor would we be disinterested parties, given that in the Muslim world, Israel is considered not only to be an American outpost, but the one most physically and diplomatically convenient to attack. Having been living under a terrorist onslaught for almost three years, Muslim "rage" is hardly an academic concern for us. If rage-minimization were the goal, it is Israel that would have to worry about the US more than the US about Israel.

    Why, then, is Israel not asking the US to stop enraging Muslims? Because Israel agrees with the US that the surest way to enrage radical Muslims is to recognize the legitimacy of their rage rather than blame them for it. And we agree that the surest way to douse that "rage" is not by succumbing to terrorism but by proving that it can and will be fought and beaten.

    Just before the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, for example, it was widely predicted that the Arab "street" would rise up and turn over the Middle East. In fact, the moment it became clear that the Taliban would be defeated, the anti-American protests in Arab capitals dissipated. According to the do-not-provoke theory, the result should have been the opposite: The "rage" should have peaked when Kabul fell.

    The American people and government know that a policy of attempting not to enrage Arab radicals would be disastrous and would paralyze the war against terrorism. They also know that there is nothing America did or could stop doing that would have prevented 9/11, and that the only way to prevent future acts of mega-terrorism is to work relentlessly to root out terrorist groups and confront the countries that support them.

    The idea that Israel should be an exception to this American understanding is strange, especially since the US has come to the same conclusion as Israel: that Arafat is preventing any Palestinian leader from lifting a finger to fight terrorism.
    Presumably, the US position is based on the idea that Arafat can be persuaded to release his grip on the armed forces under his control or direct them to fight terrorism. Yet the US has provided no basis for this position. Given the failure and resignation of Mahmoud Abbas, the US cannot simply ask Israel to restrain itself without providing a reasonable alternative.

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's acquiescence to US dictates has, for the time being, strengthened Arafat. It also places a burden on the US to deliver an alternative policy, given that Israel has been asked to desist from what it believes it must do.

    The Arafat/Hamas alliance is testing the proposition that Palestinian statehood can be achieved through terror, rather than by crushing terror.

    If the US has an idea how to confront or break up this alliance without causing Muslim rage, we are all ears.

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