Like most Americans, I’ve been appalled by the recent spate of suicide bombings in Israel. And like most Americans, I’ve also asked myself, what could drive children, whose whole lives are ahead of them, to do such a senseless, desperate act?

And what about their parents? What could possibly move a mother or a father to publicly applaud the self-destruction of their own children? Such acts shake the foundation of the world and undermine an assumption that I thought was universal. As it says in Deuteronomy: “Choose life, that ye may live.”

So I decided to hunt for some answers. I’m not Muslim – don’t speak Arabic – and while I’ve visited the region (for example, last month I was in Saudi Arabia), I can’t pretend (and wouldn’t even try) to get inside the brain of a suicider. But I can try and listen – in this case, in chat rooms and on web postings that are mostly in English – that are frequented by those from the Middle East.

So I logged into for several sessions, and just “listened with my eyes.”

The first thing I can report is a feeling of relief. Ninety-five percent of the chat I saw in each of the 15 chat rooms – one for almost every country in the region as well as for Arabs living in the United States and Germany – was of kids everywhere: Teenagers communicating, gently teasing, trying to “hook up” to use today’s parlance. It was the same thing I would find on AOL or Instant Messaging. It was the chatter of life itself.

But the 5 percent that didn’t fit this category was another story. These were the words of death. One poster named “Molahs” wanted everyone to know that Jews “are a race of pawnbrokers and money lenders,” who, he assured us, were “the scurge [sic] of the gentile race.” One “Karooba007” offered advice on “How to take care of your long Jewish nose.” The material that followed was beyond merely obscene.

Poster “KhaledC” proposed a web site to expose the lies of “Zionazis and their Talmudic Teachings.” Some chatters used screen names, such as “Mrs. Hitler,” “Rabbi Hitler,” and “ILOVEOSAMA.” What came from their fingers was entirely predictable – hatred of the United States, hatred of Jews, hatred of Christians. “Do you know that Jesus was a Muslim?” asked the post of one “Muslim 2001.”

Two conclusions that I drew from posts like these – and this 5 percent was incredibly prolific – was not just the hate but also the intensity of the hate. For example, many of these rants ran for hundreds and hundreds of words. In many instances, the hate was coupled with an almost bizarre profanity. The worldview expressed was likewise bizarre – and paranoid to a profound degree. The Jews control the banks, the politicians, the media, the military, the Vatican, heavy industry, light industry, the Space Shuttle, the morning dew – you name it, the Jews control it.

Christians came in for their fair share, too. Bush and Blair are Crusaders and Christians are corrupters of Jesus, who, were He on earth at the same time as Mohammed, would have embraced the Prophet immediately.

I also reached a third conclusion – the prevalence of a twisted education. It doesn’t take much intelligence to lay down a string of profanity – but it does take an education (of a type) to discourse endlessly about how the New Testament used by Christians is corrupt or how the Jews plan to control the universe according to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

In fact, the only other place I’ve ever run into this kind of educated hate is on so-called White Power websites. It is probably not a coincidence, but these Arab sites attracted an interesting number of American non-Arabs, mostly of the white-power variety. I was amused to find that these self-appointed “patriots” got their kicks sharing cyberspace with those who took pleasure in the murder of thousands on 9-11, journalist Danny Pearl and our own troops in Afghanistan. But there’s no reason why our fascists shouldn’t have a lot in common with the Islamic variety!

Of course, I still don’t know why kids would strap dynamite around their waist and blow-up a supermarket in Jerusalem. But I have a sense of some of the ingredients – a hatred powered by a miseducation that borders on child abuse.

Remember the old liberal bumper sticker, the one the teachers’ unions love so much? “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Well, you don’t know how true that is.

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