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December 28, 2008

Why Do They Hate Us?


Israel destroyed Hamas's main Gaza security complex in an air strike on Sunday and prepared for a possible invasion of the territory after killing more than 280 Palestinians in the first 24 hours of a powerful offensive.

From page 250 of the 9/11 Commission Report (pdf):

KSM remembers Bin Laden pushing him to launch the attacks amid the controversy after then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem...

KSM claims to have faced similar pressure twice more in 2001...The second time he was urged to launch the attacks early was in June or July 2001, supposedly after Bin Ladin learned from the media that Sharon would be visiting the White House...Bin Ladin pressed particularly strongly for the latter date in two letters stressing the need to attack early.

Of course, the current Israeli attack on Gaza is medium-to-small potatoes in the annals of U.S. and Israeli attacks in the mideast. Still, it might be nice if, when it came to whether we live or die, the U.S. media were able to provide some context for events.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 28, 2008 07:43 AM

Could you please give a little more explanation? I don't know what context the second thing gives the first.

Posted by: Lewis at December 28, 2008 10:29 AM

Come on Lewis. It is obvious to even the casual observer that the Israeli - Palestinian conflict (and the US's uncritical support of Israel) is a principal - maybe the principal - genesis of Muslim hatred for the United States. A livable deal for the Palestinians is a condition precedent for peace for us in the Middle East.

Posted by: Spot at December 28, 2008 11:27 AM

The context missing is the one neither intellectual parties want to hear. There are two nations fighting over a very small piece of land. The history of humanity tells us that peace is difficult to achieve even in simple cases and extremely difficult in such a tough dispute. As conflict goes, both side are still way far of the cruelty and carnage that was prevalent in Europe and the white man taking over America from it's native population.

In addition, the Muslim world is in one of it most violent passages. Nevertheless, the Palestinians have not showed the cruelty of Al-Kaida or the Pakistani Kashmeries.

Europeans and Americans claim that the Israel/Palestine is the center of the world and the reasons for all evil. They are dead wrong. It's an important dispute but there are many, as important, problems. Some balance and intellectual honesty will help.

Palestinian and Israelis are relatively close to peace. the mainstream political movement on both sides are in an agreement on land and Jerusalem; the refugee problem is still open.

Beyond hate, old European racism towards both sides and beyond attempts to score local political points, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is tough but has signs of hope.

Posted by: koshem bos at December 28, 2008 11:43 AM

Jon and Spot: I dunno about that. I seem to recall that bin Laden stated that a primary reason for the 9-11 attacks was the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, which he saw as an affront to his religion.

Israel is an element of US strategy in the Near East. It is not the prime mover. Cf. Chomsky on that.

If the Israeli-Palestinian problem were resolved tomorrow nobody would weep harder than the leaders of the Arab world. What would they have to complain about from then on? Whom would they blame for all their troubles?

Posted by: Seth at December 28, 2008 11:47 AM


There's a difference between bin Laden's own priorities and the priorities of the people he tries to win over to his side. He might care most about US bases in Saudi Arabia, but I get the impression that most Arabs care more about the Israeli occupation. So if he's a smart propagandist (and I don't know if he is), he'll make his appeals accordingly.

It's the same here, of course. I'm not sure what the number one reason was for the invasion of Iraq, but I'm fairly sure it wasn't that Bush and Cheney were living in terror of Saddam's WMD's.

As for weeping, I think there are a fair number of Israelis who'd weep as hard as any Arab dictator if a just solution is arrived at. I'm not sure the Arab dictators have been helped that much by the I/P conflict--they've looked like pathetic ineffectual weaklings for decades because of it and their people already know they suck in many other ways.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 28, 2008 12:14 PM

Hey Mr. DJ- I agree. The leaders on both sides throughout the region are highly cynical. No doubt they would all secretly weep tears of joy if the Palestinians were all to disappear overnight.

Posted by: Seth at December 28, 2008 12:43 PM

Condi's Roadmap.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 28, 2008 01:45 PM

Or more directly:

Is it not true that these civilians are being killed by means of American hardware? 'Israeli airstrike' = American-made planes and bombs. Not bought on the black market; received in direct military aid.

Posted by: Cloud at December 28, 2008 04:56 PM

Seth: There were four main reasons bin Laden gave for attacking the US (on 9/11 and at other times): 1) the Palestinian issue; 2) the presence of U.S. troops in Mecca and Medina; 3) the sanctions on Iraq; 4) U.S. support for corrupt Arab governments. The equation has changed now that two of those issues are no longer operative, but U.S. backing for Israel remains at the core of animosity towards the United States.

Jon: Of course, the current Israeli attack on Gaza is medium-to-small potatoes in the annals of U.S. and Israeli attacks in the mideast.

That's true in a strictly military sense, but this situation feels qualitatively different to me. Israel has launched a vicious attack on a population it's subjected to degradation, siege warfare, and psychological torture (in varying degrees) for years, and I think the repercussions may be far out of proportion to the attack itself. And not just for Israelis, but for Americans, who'll pay in the future just as we did on 9/11 for our support of Israel's ongoing crime.

Posted by: John Caruso at December 28, 2008 05:11 PM

That's true in a strictly military sense, but this situation feels qualitatively different to me.

I know what you mean. It really is fairly small in the context of the invasion of Iraq, the sanctions on Iraq, the various Lebanon wars, etc. But...the berserk cruelty involved does make it seem as though some psychological corner may have been turned—for all sides.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 28, 2008 05:54 PM

I think the repercussions may be far out of proportion to the attack itself.

So why are they doing it? Is it about Israeli domestic politics? Or is it just inevitable that such a militarized country is going to act this way?

Posted by: cemmcs at December 28, 2008 06:52 PM

cemmcs: Election time.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 28, 2008 07:08 PM

Cemmcs -- the first responsibility of a government to its citizens is defense against military attack. Rockets dropping on towns is a pretty glaring demonstration that that responsibility is not being met.

Posted by: Fritz at December 28, 2008 07:16 PM

This is just to swing the independant vote. In the USA it costs 500 million bucks to swing the center, in Israel it only takes 300 or 400 Palestinian carcasses. (or 1000 Lebanonese)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 28, 2008 07:19 PM

Mike hit it on the nail.

Fritz: Israel knew perfectly well what it was doing when it violated the truce unilaterally by blowing up a tunnel and reneging on its june 08 pledge. To protect its citizens in Sderot is the least of its concerns. To destroy Hamas is its first.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at December 28, 2008 08:59 PM

A tunnel going from Gaza to Israel? Like the tunnel Hamas used to kidnap an Israeli soldier a few years ago? Are you saying that Israel promised to not destroy such tunnels? That would be rather insane of them.

Posted by: Fritz at December 28, 2008 09:34 PM

Yes a harmless interstate tunnel! What is suspicious about that?

Posted by: Seth at December 28, 2008 11:59 PM

That's true in a strictly military sense, but this situation feels qualitatively different to me.
Because of where it leads, what comes toward us now from it.

Posted by: roy belmont at December 29, 2008 01:49 AM

Tom: Yeah, I'm part of the chain of "deviousness." Me, Ariel Sharon and Tom Friedman and the rest of the Zionist conspiracy.

Let's run away because some Saudi maniac hates us!

Personally I am a non-interventionist and believe that the US should restrict its involvement to its proper borders: the Western Hemisphere.

If we were to draw down our commitments elsewhere and concentrate on what we have going on over here (Canada, Brazil) we would ensure our people's wealth and prosperity for at least the next century. Let China and Russia fight over the Afghan wasteland and the diminishing Saudi oil reserves. We're set over here. It's bound to happen in the next thirty years anyway...better sooner than later, right?

Posted by: Seth at December 29, 2008 08:53 AM

I suspect it's much less important what bin Laden thought about US involvement in Palestine than how Mohammad Atta felt about it. And, quoting from wikipedia:

...[Atta's friend] Bodenstein said, "He was most imbued [sic] actually about Israeli politics in the region and about U.S. protection of these Israeli politics in the region. And he was to a degree personally suffering from that."

Posted by: abb1 at December 29, 2008 10:57 AM

I've read some of this before, about bin Laden's motives (here and other places), but I think you have to take his claims with the same degree of seriousness that you'd take Bush when he talks about his happiness over the liberation of the Iraqis. Mohammad Atta himself was probably sincere in his demented way--he died. Bin Laden, though, strikes me more as a politician.

A lot of people also make a distinction between groups like Hamas and Hezbollah on the one hand, and Al Qaeda on the other. They all target civilians, but Hamas and Hezbollah are resistance groups which commit atrocities the way such groups often do--Al Qaeda seems more messianic and their tactics seem to upset the Muslim world almost as much as they do the West. For one thing, Al Qaeda kills Muslim civilians with as much abandon as they kill Western infidels. It's why after 9/11 much of the Muslim world distanced itself from that act while trying to distinguish between what Al Qaeda did and what Palestinian groups do, while on the other hand the US mainstream insisted on saying "No, no, it's all terrorism and all equally irrational."

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 29, 2008 11:37 AM

Tom, I know that T. Friedman is a lying joke. Didn't Jimmy Buffet already make that pun about attitudes and latitudes? How the hell can you read more than ten words of that guy's turgid prose?

Yeah, so the great architectural critic M. Atta and construction heir OBL hate Israel, etc etc blah blah blah. Who cares? I don't like it either. Nobody cares what I think.

Why should we turn into a bunch of nervous Nellies because some disgruntled creeps in crap countries don't like us or what we do? Screw 'em. 300 dead Hamas policemen isn't genocide and 3,000 dead office workers at the WTC isn't Apocalypse.

You think that if the Jews folded up shop and left "Palestine" tomorrow that the world would all of a sudden be peaceful and just, even marginally more so? Do you imagine that the Palestinians would happily tend their stupid olive trees in their newfound Utopia, even if they got $700 Billion in reparations? Bullshit. It's just a bunch of noise.

Posted by: Seth at December 29, 2008 11:42 AM

They hate US because WE hate them.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 29, 2008 01:26 PM

Well, take Europe for example. It was a big mess for decades, the first half of the 20th century, with virulent nationalist movements popping up here and there - and it got a lot better when when it all ended. And now every time ethnic nationalism stuff gets stirred up again, like in Yugoslavia recently, they get scared shitless; no one wants that.

Still not a utopia, of course, but as the issues of cannibalism, slavery, and tribalism fade away at least people can move to a whole different level of being miserable.

Posted by: abb1 at December 29, 2008 01:26 PM

Donald: ...I think you have to take [bin Laden's] claims with the same degree of seriousness that you'd take Bush when he talks about his happiness over the liberation of the Iraqis.

George Bush has become the most powerful man on the planet by lying about his motivations in order to service the needs of the wealthy, and he's lived in comfort and privilege as a result. Osama bin Laden rejected a life of extraordinary wealth and privilege to live in caves, constantly on the move, at risk of dying at any time either thanks to the price on his head or from easily treatable illnesses—all in order to fight for the causes he believes in.

Whatever I might think of his tactics or ethics, I don't doubt his stated motives.

Seth: Why should we turn into a bunch of nervous Nellies because some disgruntled creeps in crap countries don't like us or what we do?

We should change what we do because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: John Caruso at December 29, 2008 01:42 PM

Out of curiousity, Seth, who's "we?"

Posted by: Navid at December 29, 2008 02:48 PM

Navid-The same "we" and "us" referenced in the post heading.

Yeah, the right thing to do. Name one time in history when any action was taken because it was the right thing to do. Stop being so namby-pamby.

Posted by: Seth at December 29, 2008 03:42 PM

Naming one thing done because it was the right thing to do--

The civil rights movement--a bunch of people participated and the government eventually changed the laws. Namby pamby people who were beaten and sometimes killed. Now if you mean governments rarely do things simply because they are right, that's probably true. I don't know about never.

John--I'm not sure about bin Laden. I thought of that--the fact that he's living in caves when he could be a rich playboy, but that means he's committed to his cause, not that he's scrupulously honest when trying to win support from the Arab world. But maybe he really does care deeply about the Palestinians--I don't know. They don't seem to welcome his help, as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 29, 2008 04:48 PM

Don Johnson-Popular struggles for justice always take place. I'm strictly talking about actions taken from the top.

Until I see mobilizations in the streets of America against Israeli barbarism I'm not counting on anything happening.

Posted by: Seth at December 29, 2008 05:11 PM

"nervous Nellies," "namby-pamby." Seth, me thinks you have issues.

Posted by: empty at December 29, 2008 05:54 PM

Donald Johnson: I imagine OSAMA BIN LADEN would live in some nice digs or a hotel if he didn't have warrents hanging. (Please, concider that I'm just hoping there REALLY ARE warrents out on Bin Laden)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 29, 2008 08:05 PM