It is ethnocentric Arabism in general, and Islam specifically, that rots the Middle East.

The killings of Jews by Palestinians, and earlier, by Arabs who didn’t yet consider themselves Palestinians predated the establishment of the state of Israel.

The killers did not differentiate among their targets. They just had to be Jews, random Jews, any Jews: socialist farmers on some remote kibbutz in the Galilee, working people in Haifa, or ultrapious (and, for that matter, often anti-Zionist) men and women from a town like Hebron where Jews had lived innocuously and continuously since several centuries before Mohammed set foot on this earth.

Nor, for that matter, is the specific phenomenon of suicidal murder altogether an innovation of contemporary Arab and Muslim fanatics. This has been a hot subject in historic Islam for centuries, and it remains so in the mosques and schools of higher Muslim learning today, pro and con.

The widespread adulation of Al Qaeda and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, of Osama bin Laden and Yasir Arafat, of Mohammed Atta and the young man on his way to paradise because he perpetrated mass murder in Tel Aviv, is evidence of the deep roots that this practice has in the culture of the Arab and Muslim world.

And let us name the phenomenon honestly. When pampered Saudi princes praise the “martyrs of Palestine,” and when Arafat himself says (more than a bit insincerely) that he wishes to die a shahid, they are promoting the idea of human sacrifice as an active agent of modern politics.

Yasir Arafat has never been finicky about terrorism, and his long history on that score mocks America’s calls for him to renounce the only craft he has ever truly known.

Arafat’s debut on the world stage coincides with the beginning of the Palestinian revolution, which, it is urgent to recall, commenced at least three years before the Six Day War. This means that Arafat started the Palestine Liberation Organization before one Israeli ever stepped foot into the West Bank or Gaza Strip — or, for that matter, prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem or walked in the city’s ancient Jewish Quarter.

There were no “occupied territories” back then, and there weren’t really any disputed territories either — except in the heads of the Palestinians. What Arafat wanted then (and what I believe he still wants now) was to liberate not Hebron or Nablus or Gaza (which in 1967 were in Arab hands) but Haifa and Tel Aviv, the plains of Sharon, and the Negev desert.

Or, as military historian Victor Davis Hanson put it in The Wall Street Journal, “the current Arab-Israeli war — at least the fourth fought since 1948 — is fought over the West Bank: but that is only because… the Arab world lost the first three wars to destroy Israel proper.”

From the beginning, Arafat’s tactics of terror were audacious: blowing up airplanes in midair; taking children hostage in schoolhouses; skyjackings; hijacking of buses; shootouts and bombings in crowded airports, theaters, terminals, markets, beaches, restaurants, wedding halls. His most daring moment was during the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which eleven Israeli athletes lost their lives. (It was also the first moment when Peter Jennings showed himself to be oh, so understanding of Palestinian terror.)

But this terrorism occurred only sporadically. It wasn’t until the Oslo agreements and the handshake on the White House lawn that Arafat’s terrorism became a routine feature of life in Israel. Israel obliged itself in 1993 to provide the Palestinian Authority weapons (augmented, of course, by the armaments the Palestinians smuggled and illegally manufactured themselves). And those weapons became the instruments of Jewish death. The closer the Israelis came to meeting Palestinian demands, the more intense the terror became. Suicide bombing, in fact, didn’t become the Palestinians’ chosen mode of day in, day out terror until the year 2000, when Israel offered Arafat more than the old butcher probably ever expected.

The European country that has hectored Israel the longest and most obsessively, of course, is France. And why should we be surprised? After all, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s attacks on the Jewish state have accompanied a frightening intensification of anti-Semitism in France.

Then there is the left — like the people who went to be with Arafat inside his compound some months ago. These “progressives” are not a new phenomenon in world affairs: They and their ancestors have been worshiping bloodthirsty leaders for more than half a century.

But with Stalin, Mao, and Castro, there was, for a time, at least a veneer of brutal idealism. Zionism was an expression of European liberalism, and there were Arab intellectuals who imagined that their nationalism also would be nurtured by that source.

But, in practice, Arab nationalism has become a very nasty business, defined everywhere by dictatorship. Palestinian nationalism is no different. Arafat has no grand vision of human affairs whatsoever, no desire other than territory — and territory not as the seedbed for an inspired vision of community but as a launching pad for war against the Jews.

Arafat could not possibly have stirred these activists’ dreams of a just society, because he has none. His scant program contains not even the deceit of egalitarianism. Arafat is a fascist, and his fascism has at its very core the hatred of Jews.

And since he is unabashedly stirred by this passion, one has to also suspect non-Arabs who defend and protest the “hardships faced by Palestinians at the hands of Israel”, specifically protests by psuedo-intellectuals who in their rantings, seem to think that innocent Jewish life is without value.

There is nothing dirtier than one who embraces dirt.

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