The Mystery of Hate, by Yair LapidMarch 10, 2008
A while back, Yair Lapid, an Israeli journalist (and now news anchor) wrote this column. I’m not sure who translated it, so if someone knows, please let me know. For those of you who aren’t Israeli, this sheds quite a bit of light on how we feel.
The Mystery of Hate
by Yair Lapid
Hundreds of years of fighting, six and a half wars, billions of dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands of victims, not including the boy who laid down next to me on the rocky beach of lake Karon in 1982 and we both watched his guts spilling out. The helicopter took him and until this day I do not know whether he is dead or survived. All this, and one cannot figure it out.
And its not only what happened but all that did not happen – hospitals that were never built, universities that were never opened, roads that were never paved, the three years that were taken from millions of teenagers for the sake of the army. And despite all the above, we still do not have the beginning of a clue to the mystery of where it all started: Why do they hate us so much?
I am not talking about the Palestinians this time Their dispute with us is intimate, focused, and it has a direct effect on their lives. Without getting into the “which side is right” question, it is obvious that they have very personal reasons not to stand our presence here. We all know that eventually this is how it will be solved: in a personal way, between them and us, with blood sweat and tears that will stain the pages of the agreement. Until then, it is a war that could at least be understood, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means that are used to run it by.
It is the others. Those I cannot understand. Why does Hassan Nasralla, along with tens of thousands of his supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, his country’s destiny, to fight a country he has never even seen, people he has never really met and an army that he has no reason to fight?
Why do children in Iran, who can not even locate Israel on the map (especially because it is so small), burn its flag in the city center and offer to commit suicide for its elimination? Why do Egyptian and Jordanian intellectuals agitate the innocent and helpless against the peace agreements, even though they know that their failure will push their countries 20 years back? Why are the Syrians willing to stay a pathetic and depressed third world country, for the dubious right to finance terror organizations that will eventually threaten their own country’s existence? Why do they hate us so much in Saudi-Arabia? In Iraq? In Sudan? What have we done to them? How are we even relevant to their lives? What do they know about us? Why do they hate us so much in Afghanistan? They don’t have anything to eat there, where do they get the energy to hate?
This question has so many answers and yet it is a mystery. It is true that it is a religious matter but even religious people make their choices. The Koran (along with the Shariaa – the Muslim parallel to the Jewish Halacha) consists of thousands of laws, why is it that we occupy them so much?
There are so many countries who gave them much better reasons to be angry. We did not start the crusades, we did not rule them during the colonial period, we never tried to convert them. The Mongolians, the Seljuk, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British, they all conquered, ruined and plundered the whole region. We did not even try, so how come we are the enemy?
And if it is identification with their Palestinians brothers then where are the Saudi Arabian tractors building up the territories that were evacuated? What happened to the Indonesian delegation building a school in Gaza strip? Where are the Kuwaiti doctors with their modern surgical equipment? There are so many ways to love your brothers, why do they all prefer to help their brothers with hating?
Is it something that we do? Fifteen hundreds years of anti-Semitism taught us – in the most painful way possible – that there is something about us that irritates the world. So, we did the thing everyone wanted: we got up and left. We have established our own tiny little country, where we can irritate ourselves without interrupting others. We didn’t even ask a lot for it. Israel is spread on a smaller territory than 1% of the territory of Saudi-Arabia, with no oil, no minerals, without settling on another existing state’s territory. Most of the cities that were bombed this week were not plundered from anyone. Nahariya, Afula, and Karmiel did not even exist until we established them. The other katyusas landed on territories over which no one ever questioned our right with regards to them. In Haifa there were Jews already in the 3rd century BC and Tiberias was the place where the last Sanhedrin sat, so no one can claim we plundered them from anyone.
However, the hatred continues. As if no other destiny is possible. Active hatred, poisoned, unstoppable. Last Saturday the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called again “to act for the vanishing of Israel”‘ as if we were bacteria. We got used to it so much that we don’t even ask why.
Israel does not hope and never did for Iran to vanish. As long as they wanted, we had diplomatic relations with them. We do not have a common border with them or even any bad memories. And still, they are willing to confront the whole western world, to risk a commercial boycott, to hurt their own quality of life, to crush what’s left of their economy and all that for the right to passionately hate us.
I am trying to remember and cannot: have we ever done something to them? When? How? Why did he say in his speech that “Israel is the main problem of the Muslim world”? more than a billion people living in the Muslim world, most of them in horrible conditions. They suffer from hunger, poverty, ignorance, bloodshed that spreads from Kashmir to Kurdistan, from dying Darfur to injured Bangladesh. How come we are the main problem? How exactly are we in their way?
I refuse to accept the argument that claims “that is just the way they are”. They said it about us so many times that we have learned to accept this expression. There must be another reason, some dark secret that because of it, the citizens of South Lebanon allow to rouse the quiet border, to kidnap the soldiers of an army that has already retreated from their territory, to turn their country into a wasteland exactly at the time they finally escaped twenty years of disasters.
We got used to telling ourselves worn expressions – “it’s the Iranian influence”, or “Syria is stirring behind the scenes” – but it is just too easy explanation. Because what about them?
What about their thoughts?
What about their hopes, loves, ambitions and their dreams?
What about their children?
When they send their children to die, does it seem enough for them to say that it was all worth while just because they hate us so much?