Reading “mainstream” analysis of the Middle East conflict is a lot like listening to American liberals talk about crime. In both cases, you have people who are in search of “root causes” of problems they don’t begin to comprehend.

Take Robert Mott, a well-intentioned senior writer for the Sacramento Bee, who recently had a cup of espresso in a Tel Aviv cafe and now considers himself something of an expert on Mideast geo-politics.

“Foreigners who find it difficult to understand the depth of feeling that fuels the unending conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors often seek answers by visiting the region, as I did in June,” Mott wrote. “While the answers remain elusive, the stories told by people on both sides at least help one to understand that those deep-seated feelings are genuine. That’s the problem.”

Feelings, schmeelings! When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, did we sit back and wonder what kinds of feelings were motivating their behavior? Of course not.

In the annals of history, there have been many disputes between righteous and unrighteous causes. Is it just possible that one side in this debate might be right — or, at least, more right — than the other? In my mind, there is no question about it. Why? Israel is not and has not been an aggressor. It is the only state in the region even close to offering real freedom and democracy to its people. It truly seeks a just and lasting peace with the Arabs.

But people like Mott try very hard to prove there is moral equivalency between Israel and her Arab neighbors. For instance, among the people he talked to while visiting the region was Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Ekrima Sabri. Make no mistake — this guy is a hard-line, anti-Jewish, war-mongering zealot. He told Mott that the imaginary state of Palestine extends “from the sea to the river” — in other words, it includes all of Israel. He also declares “to all infidel nations that Jerusalem is Arab; we shall not respect anyone else’s wishes regarding her.” This is the same Islamic cleric who refused to condemn the deadly terrorist bombing in Jerusalem last month or other suicide attacks on civilians.

“We cannot judge,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. But note this transition by Mott.

“The mufti’s intolerance is easily matched by David Wilder, an American-born spokesman for the 500-plus Jewish settlers of Hebron, whose 130,000 inhabitants are nearly all Palestinian — except for that handful of Jews living in a tiny central area under the protection of 1,500 Israeli troops,” he writes. “Wilder, who carries a sidearm, makes no effort to hide his contempt for Palestinians as he relates an incident the night before in which a teen-age Israeli girl was roughed up by a Palestinians man: ‘He was arrested and RELEASED!'”

OK, let me get this straight. Someone wearing the garb of a holy man condones terrorism and takes a genocidal position toward Israeli Jews — and, somehow, that equates with another man’s anger over violence committed against a teen-age girl in his neighborhood. I’d be plenty angry, too.

This could only make sense to a mind that believes the answer to every dispute is compromise. It’s the same kind of thinking that leads to treating criminals as well or better than crime victims. It’s either the ultimate in naiveté or the most effective propaganda ploy since Josef Goebbels.

Yet, this muddled thinking even pervades much of the Israeli political establishment. Earlier this month, when Iran elected Mohammed Khathami as its new “moderate” president, the Israeli government reportedly sent a message of congratulations to him, emphasizing that as far as Jerusalem is concerned, there is no good reason why the Jewish state and Iran can’t be friends.

Well, I hate to disappoint my friends in Jerusalem, but there is one very good reason they can’t be friends: The leaders of Iran — including Khathami — would like nothing better than to destroy Israel, wipe it out, kill every man, woman and child in the land. And they are developing the weaponry to permit them to do just that in the near future.

Israeli officials were a little surprised that they got no response from Khathami. Khathami, the choice of the radical mullahs ruling Iran, probably thought the letter was a joke.

You see, sometimes in international affairs, people just think differently. There is no room to negotiate with people who want only to destroy you. Even the best multicultural vibes can’t change people’s hearts and minds. And that’s the real root cause of the Mideast crisis.

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