The Mystery of Hate, by Yair Lapid

March 10, 2008

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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?

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  1. Truly a though provoking article. I would really like to know the answer.

    Peace in the Middle East!


  2. though == thought

  3. Most of us would.

  4. They hate us for the same reason the entire world always hated us, we are the underdogs that always come ahead. No one likes to admit it, but no one likes it when their neighbor’s grass is greener. Even if that grass is an insignificant tiny patch.

  5. Hi, My name is David Bryn, from Israel, and I participated in the Erasmus exchange program on the fall semester of 2005. As most of you probably know we have a war going on in our area. The point of this email is not to open a discussion about which side is right or wrong.

    About two weeks ago, an Israeli publicist by the name of Yair Lapid published his weekly column. After reading his column, I decided to translate and send it to all my friends outside of Israel, since I think it sheds a little light about our feelings here as Israelis in the wild Middle East.

    I would be more than thankful if you would forward this email to everyone you know.

  6. david, whoever you may be, i thank you for a remarkable jobtranslating a most difficult column….it helped me understand many feelings i have and didn’t know why…

    hopefully, the answer will come in your lifetime !


  7. First off just want to state that I am not Jewish and I am not Muslim, have not been to Israel, the Middle East in General or a Muslim country. I have not bias in this area.

    Here is the reason I think people “hate” Israel:
    1) When the Israel state was formed it was done by an act of terrorism – the palestinas were kicked out of their homes. These folks ended up going into countries like Syria, Lebenon (sp?), Iran etc. as they did not have a home. When there they decided to influnce their country men in the unfairness of their displacement.

    2) The article correctly states that these Muslim countries are interested in helping the victims of this situation – the palestinias hate. Hate is by far the worst emotion that can be displayed. If the palestnias learned to turn the other cheek and take the abuses Israel prepitrates upon them in a non violent manner, I think the region would become a calmer and better place. This is how Ghandi dealt with the British and eventually won India its freedom. However Israel is not like Britian. It is not as fair and decent as the British people (not government) were. Israel and palestnian are cut from the same cloth and equally thick headed.

    3) Israel would not survive without American contributions. Israel would fall flat. If only America stopped giving Israel money, Israel would learn to get along with its neighbours and the rest of the middle east will come to peace.

    The world in general does not like unfairness. That is another reason for the so called “hate”. I mean in Israel the Jewish children are taugh in school that the Palestnian didn’t exist before the state of Israel was established. However this fact is not higlighted by the media, only the fact that Muslim kids are taught to hate the Jewish kids. See both sides teach the kids their own version of propaganda. Yet the world comes down on the Muslims and not the Jews. Because of the Holocaust Jews are treated with kid gloves. However the Jews are now doing what the Germans did to them to the Muslims. So I guess after 6 million Muslims perish the world will treat the Muslims with kid gloves and then the world will be unfortunately taken over by the Muslims.

  8. Rosa, first I’d like to preface this to apologize it took me a couple days to get back to you – as I wrote in my last post, for reasons beyond my control I have been offline for a while, at least for the most part.

    1) This isn’t entirely true. They may have been “kicked out” and I”m not denying that there were definite in justices, but to say it was an act of terrorism and that they weren’t allowed back (MOST of them were offered to be part of Israel) is wrong. Our of an interest of saving room and reading space, this page has a lot of extremely valid sources showing that what people generally think isn’t necessarily true. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf14.html.

    Also, stating this as a reason for why everyone in the world should hate Israel should have made everyone in the world hate the USA – what they did and continue to do to the Native Americans is much worse and has gone on a LOT longer.

    2) If there were non-violence on the side of the Palestinians, Israel would’ve gotten the hell out of their territories. Israel has no desire to be the aggressor and we get nothing out of being in their lands other than losing many of our own. Look at the current situation. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and effectively displaced thousands of Israelis (however you look at it), and this was unilateral. Nothing on the part of the Palestinians was asked – we withdrew. What has happened since? Those lands are now used to launch even more missiles at Israeli towns on a daily basis – even RIGHT NOW that we’re supposedly under a cease fire. Thousands upon thousands of missiles have been launched at Israeli towns, many from those particular lands.

    There’s more: Israel opens up borders to provide humanitarian aid by the tons – this is undisputed and is published everywhere – and the Palestinians go and perform terrorist attacks at those very crossings whose sole purpose is to provide aid and relief. Examples: https://realisrael.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/are-palestinians-against-receiving-aid-theyre-shooting-themselves-in-the-foot/ https://realisrael.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/120/

    Where do you come off saying that Israel isn’t “fair and decent” as the British? Where do you get your information? Have you met any Israelis before? Do you know what Israel has done or just what you read in your papers? I will reply to your other comments too as I publish them so we will address this later. No Jew has EVER blown themselves up to take other lives. It does NOT happen, and trust me, Jews have had their share of complete and total torture and injustices (Holocaust, Pogroms, Spanish Inquisition).

    The Israelis and Palestinians may be equally thick-headed, but you can’t compare the two.

    3) Israel receives aid from the US. So do the Palestinians (who also receive millions from a gazillion other Arab countries that support its terrorist attacks against Israel AND the US). Israel would NOT fall flat though. Israel thrives in its own right. It’s #2 in the world in hi tech. It makes amazing medical advances that are used throughout the world. Many links in this blog – and many other places – to support both claims.

    The biggest LIE (and unfortunate misconception) of your comment is the last part – that Israeli children are taught that the Palestinians didn’t exist. That is NOT true. I went to school here as a kid and I was never taught that. Nor are Israeli children taught to hate Arabs, Palestinian or otherwise. Show me proof of ANY Israeli text saying that the Palestinian people didn’t exist before.

    The Jews are not doing anything NEARLY as bad as the Nazis did. Not even close. There is no systematic murder of any kind. If the Palestinian terrorists/militants/freedom fighters (whatever you choose to call them) would not hide behind women and children (documented by world organizations, not just Israeli), the number of innocent Palestinian children and women would be significantly lower. The rockets launched from those houses, and the bombs built in those houses, all end up killing Israeli women and children.

    And if it’s a choice between Israeli children and Palestinian children, excuse Israel if they choose to protect their own.

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