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Feelings can be dangerous, especially feelings of hatred. Last week
there was an international attempt to switch off the feelings of
countless enraged Arabs. It was an effort to restart the “peace
process.” But will this effort succeed? Can feelings be turned off and
rationality turned on in the wake of what has happened?
A great deal of damage has been done. Yasser Arafat has mobilized the
hearts and minds of many Arabs against Israel. In recent weeks, Muslim
clerics in various countries have called for a Jihad against Jews.
Moslems from Great Britain to Indonesia have openly talked about
“slaughtering Jews.” A website has appeared that talks about “driving
the Zionists into the
Arafat’s mechanism for generating homicidal rage is quite simple. By
organizing violent protests on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, by getting
teen-age children to martyr themselves in front of television cameras,
the Palestinian Authority has gathered a harvest of hate. Israeli
soldiers, outnumbered and threatened with dismemberment by violent
Palestinian mobs, have been provoked into using deadly force to defend
themselves. And when these acts are viewed out of context, the Israeli
soldiers can be made to look like “baby killers.”
It is a major propaganda score for Arafat.
Over a week ago there were demonstrations in Cairo and other major
Arab cities. Arab television stations were playing patriotic songs.
Egyptian mobs were calling for war with Israel. Egypt’s government did
not dare contradict popular sentiment. Even the official state-owned
media in Egypt contributed to the anti-Israeli mood by showing selected
footage from the West Bank.
Footage of the violence on the West Bank can have a very powerful
effect. If you want people to slaughter each other, if you want to make
them ready for war, this is the kind of thing you put on TV. To lead
your people into a major catastrophe, you have to manipulate certain
feelings. A purely rational argument for slaughter seldom goes over.
After all, murder is something that only crazy people think about. But a
person in the grip of strong emotions is similar to a crazy person, and
might easily be led to violence.
Carl von Clausewitz, the famous Prussian military theorist of the
19th century, wrote that “the moral elements are among the most
important in war.” He said that psychological factors “permeate war” and
“at an early stage they establish a close affinity with the will that
moves and leads the whole mass of force. …”
It seems that Yasser Arafat has been attempting to start a war in the
When President Clinton arrived in Egypt a week ago to get the two
sides talking again, he said, “We have to move beyond blame.” But when
strong feelings are engaged, blame is the central issue. Therefore, it
is no wonder that during last week’s summit in Egypt the Palestinian
representative at the foreign ministers’ meeting called the U.S.
Secretary of State, the Israeli foreign minister and the U.N. envoy
“murderers.” In other words, he was blaming them.
When we speak or act from feelings, rather than careful reasoning,
our statements appear distorted. One needs to ask what the Palestinian
representative was trying to accomplish by such an outburst.
The leader of an armed group on the West Bank, Hussein Sheikh, told
reporters last week that the Palestinian uprising on the West Bank will
continue. Those who want war must continue to incite violence and hatred
in order to bring matters to a head. And the man of decision at this
time is Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt. If President Mubarak
decides on war, there will be war. If he chooses peace, then the
Palestinian uprising will fizzle.
But can Mubarak make peace when the Arab world is so full of hate?
To give readers an idea of the homicidal passions unleashed by the
Palestinian uprising, it is necessary to refer to an interim report
issued last week by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The report begins by
quoting an Arab leaflet currently being distributed in England, which
reads, “The final hour will not come until the Moslems kill the Jews.”
The contents of the interim report are shocking. Since the
Palestinian uprising began there have been over 100 incidents of
violence against Jews in France alone. It is impossible to run through
the entire list, but a small sample should serve to illustrate the
situation. Synagogues have been firebombed in Paris, Villepinte,
Aubervilliers, Lyons, Clichy sous Bois and Creil. Arabs carrying
baseball bats surrounded Paris’s Henri Murger Synagogue during services.
In England a Molotov cocktail was thrown at Upper Berkeley Street
Synagogue in London. Another one was thrown at Seymour Place Synagogue.
An elderly Jewish couple was assaulted with stones just outside Kenton
United Synagogue, and an Orthodox Jew was stabbed by an Algerian on a
In the United States, Molotov cocktails were thrown by three Moslem
youths at Adath Israel Synagogue in Queens, N.Y. A synagogue in St.
Paul, Minn. was firebombed. The Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Harrisburg, Pa.
was damaged by arson, and there was a drive-by shooting attempt on the
life of a Rabbi in Chicago.
Last Thursday I spoke with Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, who said that the violence is not only coming from Arabs and
Muslims, but from anti-Semite hate groups like Matt Hale’s Church of the
Creator which has used the internet to call for a “day of rage” against
I asked Mr. Weitzman if this has been the largest anti-Jewish
outbreak in recent years. “It certainly is significant,” he said, “but
this has happened before,” during previous wars in the Middle East. In
the past, said Weitzman, “it often calms down.” But this time he worries
that the violence is more problematic. “Hopes have been raised by the
peace process,” he said, “and then shattered.”
Weitzman also pointed out that the rock-throwing Palestinian children
on the West Bank have been indoctrinated by school textbooks that
demonize Jews. “Hate has to be taught,” he added. And it has been
taught, and now it has been dramatized — acted out — before television
Those who exploit violent emotions in the Middle East are playing a
dangerous game. Wars are easy to start, but they can escalate out of
control with destructive consequences for everyone. Once violence begins
there is no telling how many people will die, or how far the fighting
might spread. In 1939 Adolf Hitler wanted a little chunk of land from
Poland. He thought to take it in a quick invasion. Half a decade later
Europe was in rubble and 55 million people were dead.
It should be remembered that Hitler also began by inciting hatred
against the Jews.