Op-ed: Removing the secular obstacle to peace

The Left (and John Kerry) claim Jewish “settlements” are the greatest obstacle to peace. But what do our neighbors say is the real problem?

Yehezkel Laing,

Peace Now rally
Peace Now rally
Miriam Alster/FLASH90

The Israeli Left likes to depict itself as the “Peace Camp” – constantly striving for co-existence and understanding with Israel’s Arab neighbors. The national camp is labeled by default the “War Camp” bent on conflict.

The Arabs dislike us because we oppress and impoverish them, says the Left. If we just surrender land, they will stop hating us. Give them independence and watch their enmity disappear.

Did Territorial Surrender Bring Peace?

After almost 25 years of the Oslo Accords and 40 years of territorial surrender (the Sinai, Gaza, the Northern Security Zone) Israelis are today less willing to agree with the Left’s utopian vision. In the past 40 years Israel has surrendered lands over three times the size of the State of Israel, yet peace seems further away than ever.

In fact, practically all lands Israel has surrendered have been seized by Islamic groups bent on Israel’s destruction. This includes Gaza taken over by the Hamas, the northern security zone taken over by the Hizbullah and even the Sinai desert, controlled today by ISIS and al Qaeda.

What’s more, since the Oslo “Peace Accords” were signed, Israel has fought four separate wars, all mainly in areas that it surrendered to the Arabs: The Second Lebanon War, The First Gaza War, Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge.

Is Money Everything?

In consonance with its Israeli brethren, the Western Left claims that Muslims become radicalized due to poverty and destitution. American President Barack Obama himself has linked terrorism to poverty. "When millions of people, are impoverished and have no hope for the future…resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow.”

Not surprisingly the Israeli Left agrees. According to Oslo Accords architect and late former Prime Minister/President Shimon Peres “Fundamentalism is a way of protesting against poverty, corruption, ignorance and discrimination. So if you want to bring an end to it…you have to have a new economy, a higher standard of living.”

The Affluent Jihadists

But are Islamists and jihadists really motivated by poverty? Can they be bought off for the right price? Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda, was a multi-millionaire. Islamic law features prominently in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – countries which enjoy some of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Yet it does not play a major role in poorer Arab countries like Tunisia and Morocco.

In his book "Understanding Terror Networks," psychiatrist Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer, examined the backgrounds of 172 Jihadist terrorists. He found that just under half were professionals; two-thirds were either middle or upper-class and had gone to college; indeed, several had doctorates.

A recent Canadian University article titled Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-Economic Push versus Existential Pull Factors found that young Jihadists are motivated not by economic factors but religious ones. “None of our sample indicated coming from familial situations of poverty or marginality. On the contrary, many indicated they had fairly happy and privileged childhoods.” The report repeatedly stresses that the fighters are "pulled" to Iraq and Syria by religious ideas.

What Really Bothers Muslims About Israel?

Instead of telling our Muslim neighbors what they believe, perhaps it would be better just to listen to what they themselves are saying. What really bothers them about Israel? Here are some quotes from a man who is probably Israel’s most notorious opponent, Iran's former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

"Zionists are a people without any religion. They are lying about being Jewish because religion means brotherhood, friendship and respecting other divine religions…" (News conference in Tehran, August 28, 2007.)

"We believe that there's a minority in the United States and they are Zionists. They have no religion. They believe in no religion." (Interview with Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, September 16, 2010.)

"The Zionists are groups of hypocritical racists who have been operating under the pretext of following Jewish religious principles." (International Al Quds Day, September 2, 2010.)

"Zionists, who have no faith in religion or even God, now claim piety and intend to take away the Islamic identity of the Holy Quds." (Speech to the Turkish-Palestinian Parliamentary Friendship Group, January 3, 2012.)

Muslims see Israel not as a Jewish State, but as a hedonistic, Western state.

"Zionism is a Western ideology and a colonialist idea ... and right now it massacres Muslims with direct guidance and help from the United States and a part of Europe." (Iran's former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, January 2, 2006.)

"Who assists the fake Zionist regime? Who supports them…who stands behind them? It is Western powers headed by America." (Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, January 1, 2016.)

"By Allah, Israel is weaker than a spider web... Israel's reverence for human life and the hedonistic nature of Israeli society make it weak and unable to sustain continued war and bloodshed." (Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Al-Manar TV, January 30, 2007.)

"Today’s Jews are not the Israelites praised by Allah, but the descendants of the Israelites who defied His word."(Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi)

But perhaps the strongest evidence comes from Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon. See what happens when Israel embraces its Jewish roots, instead of denying them.

“During my first speech at the UN, I put on a kippa and read from the Book of Psalms… After the speech, Muslim ambassadors came up to me and said that, because I had read from Jewish holy books, they wanted to meet with me.”

Ishmael and Esau

It seems that the secular mind cannot fathom any motive beyond materialistic ones. But is this really the only thing that motivates mankind? The Arabs trace their lineage back to Ishmael. The name means “Listening to G-d”. The essence of the Arab peoples is religious.

Esau, the father of Edom and hence the Roman Empire, is considered by Judaism, to be the father of the West. The root of the name Esau is “To Do”. Esau is a man of action in the physical world. His essence is therefore secular.

All of the world’s great religions come from the East: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism. Meanwhile, all of the world’s major inventions come from the West: the steam engine, electricity, the telephone, the computer. No wonder the West can’t understand the East. They speak two completely different languages.

Stopping the Secular War Against Islam

What if it’s really the other way around? What if the Israeli Left is the Camp of War and the Nationalists the Camp of Peace? Sound crazy? Annually Israel holds large parades celebrating homosexuality in Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem. Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups regularly petition the Supreme Court against these marches – to no avail.

In light of the horrific massacre of homosexuals in Orlando by an Islamist, leftwing ‘peace’ activists should be asking themselves one question – does their support for homosexuality increase peace with our Muslim neighbors or decrease it? What is more important to them, promoting extreme Western values in the Middle East or living peaceably with our Arab neighbors?

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." It seems that this holds true for the metaphysical world, no less than for the physical one. The more secular the West becomes, the more fundamentalist the East. As the West adopts a post-modern world-view, which denies the existence of a single truth, we shouldn’t be surprised that a counter culture develops in the East that believes the smallest deviation from its “Truth” makes one deserving of death.

How ironic that those who seek most to create peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, do the most to distance us from it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said on numerous occasions that he considers Israel to be part of the West. Why? Why does Israel always prefer the West? Why do we view it as any more moral or just than the East? Wasn’t it secular Europeans (the Nazis) who carried out the Holocaust – not Middle Eastern Muslims?

Due to its unique location between East and West, Israel should act as a connector between them, and not take sides in this monumental battle between two extremist cultures. It’s time for Israel to address the root cause of the conflict and decide what it wants to be – a Western country that forcibly imposes Western values on the Middle East or a Jewish State which acts as a bridge between East and West.

Yehezkel Laing is a marketing communications specialist from Jerusalem.This article appeared in Hebrew in the popular weekly Olam Katan, distributed in synagogues and hesder yeshivas.