Hating Israel

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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Before he was killed by French police, the jihadist murderer of three French-Algerian soldiers and four Jews, including three children, said that he was driven to killing by the “murder” of Palestinian children by Israelis. Of course, when all else fails blame the Jews. But this excuse is a mere pretext, a propaganda tactic for finding Western moral support by exploiting the unsavory anti-Jewish prejudices still lurking in too many Westerners.

The narrative that the Israeli “brutal occupation”  of the “Palestinian homeland” is the cause of jihadist violence is a hoary cliché, a jihadist pretext for terror enabled by Western anti-Semitism and pop psychology. Examples of this received wisdom are easy to collect. French foreign minister Hubert Védrine in 2002 explained increasing anti-Semitic attacks and car-burnings in France by saying, “One shouldn’t necessarily be surprised that young French people from immigrant families feel compassion for the Palestinians and get agitated when they see what is happening. The historian Tony Judt in his history of post-war Europe concurred, agreeing that the attacks were “a direct outcome of the festering crisis in the Middle East.” Repeating this received wisdom, General David Petraeus, in his 2010 Congressional testimony, said that the Arab-Israeli “conflict foments anti-Americanism sentiment, due to a perception of U.S favoritism for Israel. Anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples” in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.” No doubt cognizant of the Western penchant for blaming Jews, Osama bin-Laden added Palestine to his ever-growing list of pretexts for attacking America: “The creation and continuation of Israel,” he lectured us in 2002, “is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals.”

Of course, bin Laden was never short of pretexts for rationalizing murder. First it was the American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Then in 2004, he said American involvement in Lebanon in 1983 made him hate America. Elsewhere, he claimed that the U.S. had waged “a war against Muslims” since 1945. Yet in his statements after 9/11, bin Laden mentioned the real reason: the “humiliation and disgrace” inflicted on Muslims by the dissolution of the caliphate in 1924. That, not the creation of Israel, is the real “catastrophe” for Islamists, the culmination of three centuries of Western encroachment into the House of Islam. For theorists of jihad like Muslim Brothers Hassan al Banna and Sayyid Qutb, the existence of Israel was merely a symptom of a larger corruption of Islam by Western ideas that opened the door to the Western dominance that made Israel possible in the first place.

Moreover, it is hard to credit Arab or Muslim concern for Palestinian suffering, given the contempt most Arabs have shown for the people who ran away in 1948 rather than fight, or the way Arab countries herded Palestinian refugees into squalid camps existing on international welfare, or the body-count of Palestinians killed by their fellow Arabs, a number that dwarfs those killed by Israel while defending herself from terrorist attacks. Just the toll of Palestinians killed in the 1970 Black September massacre in Jordan, for example, around 5000, is over half the 8000 killed by Israel during the whole six-decade conflict. Clearly, the issue isn’t the number of dead, tortured, imprisoned or oppressed, but rather the identity of the enemy––infidels whose fate is to be subjected to Muslims, whom Allah called the “best of nations” destined to dominate the world.

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  • Rivkah F.

    Thanks. Thornton is correct. One may criticize specific policies but in the case of Israel (and, by the way, often of the U.S.), the criticism turns to hatred, delegitimization and dehumanization of Israel. If the hatred and murder come from Muslims, then it is whitewashed and justified.

  • theleastthreat

    So why do they, the radical Muslims, hate women, homosexuals, blacks, converts to Christianity, Christian evangelists, other Muslims? Is all that an Israeli-Palestinian thing too?

    • diann

      They hate because that is the basis of Islam – death, hatred, revenge, violence – all these things and more are esteemed goals of Muslims, as they are directed by the Koran, hadiths, suras, etc. This is what is required of them in order to please their god, and gain paradise, although paradise is only guaranteed if one dies while killing others in the name of Allah. it's tragic that so many are controlled by such a belief system.

    • byHIsgrace

      It's their 'religion'…IF all Muslim practiced their 'faith' as they are called to do…well all of them would beleive and act the way the 'radicals' do. Do your homework. Look at what is going on in Europe. Look at England, France…anywhere where they take over a neighborhood. There is plenty of info out there. If God forbid (he did allow the Assyrians to destroy the 10 Northern tribes of Israel) Islam accomplishes it goal of re establishing it caliphate…you will have 3 choices: 1) Convert 2) pay a heavy tax and become a dhimni (sp) or 3: die…All FACTS. Do your homework. Islam and the West are incompatible. The good news is God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the triune God: Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit is still on the throne, is still Sovereign. ThankYyou dear God! Thank You, Jesus!

  • Schlomotion

    Mr Thornton begins by accusing "Westerners" of anti-Jewish prejudices. Thus he dons the mantle of an "Easterner." This automatically makes him an apostate of Westernism and an orientalist. He calls Israeli annexation of Palestinian houses, streets and water "a narrative," as if this helps children go to sleep at night. This is academic dishonesty.

    Again he says "Western anti-Semitism" branding himself an Orientalist. Then he denies that there is a "festering crisis in the Middle East," though it is acknowledged by most world leaders. Then he throws Neocon hero David Petraeus under the bus. AGAIN he refers to us as as having a "Western penchant" for blaming Jews. I am perplexed. He writes in English. He sells his publications in "the West." He collects royalties from colleges like Stanford State University in "the West." Ezra Pound, Gore Vidal, and James Cameron come to mind.

    This is a Jewish Edward Said, is it not? Isn't there a longstanding gripe by The Lobby that Muslims use our university system to push Orientalist racism and religion in America while getting paid for it? Isn't Mr. Thornton doing the same? I for one am irritated by this man denigrating The West in every breath while collecting a check for it.

    • stern

      "Israeli annexation of Palestinian houses, streets and water"

      If you can write a phrase like this with a straight face, then you are sadly lacking in knowledge of the reality of Israel, Judea, Samaria and the so-called "Palestinians".

      Israel has not annexed Palestinian houses and streets – and the entire water question is yet one more blood libel used to great effect by those who hate Israel and Jews. I would suggest you start educating yourself about the status of land upon which the "settlements" are built (all empty before construction – i.e. no "Palestinian streets"; also, please explain how 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation can suddenly become a "Palestinian" right to a state?) and the truth about the water situation. The fact is Israel supplies the Palestinians with a heck of a lot more water than she is required to do. It is the Palestinians who steal water from Israel and who do not treat their own sewage, thus spoiling their own water sources.

      But much easier to be a schmo, I suppose.

      • Schlomotion

        I am looking at this, and it really seems to negate your defense of Israeli resource theft: http://www.unitedmethodistdivestment.com/IsraelPr

        • EVABeliever

          You point to an article that is based on a lie and you think that makes what you say true? There is no such thing as a "Palestinian" Arab and that is the truth. Anything said in the article you point to is therefore a lie. The Arabs living in the DISPUTED territory are not Israel's responsibility; they are the responsibility of Jordan They are living as they are due to their ancestor's unwillingness to live in peace with the Jews. Israel is NOT responsible for providing the infrastructure for a people that have sworn to kill them. I wonder schlomo if you would pay to refurbish your neighbor's house if he swore to kill you at every chance? INSIDE Israel there is ZERO apartheid. The cities in JUDEA and SAMARIA are NOT settlements; they are CITIES. Referring to them as settlements may be the anti-Semite's way of delegitimizing them but it's a lie. Lies work only when idiots like yourself want to believe them. Anything you say has been discredited by your complete ignorance of the facts.

          • Schlomotion

            I cannot share your disposition that people do not exist simply because we want their belongings.

          • intrcptr2

            Ah, so you indeed condemn the Jerusalem riots of 1922, then!!

            Good. There may be some hope for you yet.

          • Schlomotion

            Yes. I condemn rioting, pogroms, mass violence, and interreligious warfare.

        • stern

          http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.a

          And pointing to a united methodist church article about Israel is kind of like asking us to believe Nazi propaganda about the Jews.

          • Schlomotion

            That is an interesting article, but I am not convinced. My friend killed a Palestinian captain, repelling an invasion into Lebanon, and even he contends that if the Israelis weren't stealing so much land and water from the Palestinians, they would not be as prompted to invade other countries. Instead they would be in their swimming pools.

          • stern

            Gee, so we must take the word of your "friend" against the documented evidence cited in the article? Go away, herman Cantoinette.

          • WilliamJamesWard

            Good observation stern, very good……………………………..William

          • intrcptr2

            The palis have no army, so how did this "victim" of your friend attain a rank? Especially in a counrty not his own.

            And who would be in the swimming pools? The IDF or Hamas?
            Personal opinion does not make something true, no matter who one has killed in the line of duty. Or have you forgotten why the PLO was in Lebanon in the first place?

          • Schlomotion

            Beats me. You just shoot the guys with more insignia on their hats and the other guys turn around and go home.

        • Eli

          OK, I dug up one of the articles mentioned in that link: http://web.archive.org/web/20080828232013/http://

          So, in essence, it describes a situation where Israel is planning to use, as just *one* of its sources,
          a desalination plant to get drinkable water. It does mention that Israel maintains a tight grip on the West Bank aquifer, but who can blame anyone living in a volatile region for wanting to preserve a strategic reservoir of water available for emergency? Most importantly, in fact, the article mentions "unusual cooperation" between the Israelis and Palestinians on water sharing and infrastructure maintenance, even in times of intifada. As to the Gaza aquifer question, the article concludes:

          "Over the years, Israel has developed a good reputation for using water efficiently, and in the 1980s it began recycling sewage effluent for irrigation. In 2004, Israel signed a deal to buy water shipped by tanker from Turkey.

          Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip depend almost exclusively on small wells tapping the coastal aquifer. As the water table falls, the aquifer is becoming increasingly polluted by salt water from the sea. UN scientists say Gaza will have no drinkable water within 15 years [my edit: and similar may happen in West Bank, as the population and needs keep expanding!]

          Despite earlier efforts to develop desalination, the Israel government only decided to invest heavily in the technology in the past four years. Some, including Israeli liberals and Palestinian optimists such as Barghothi, believed that once Israel began desalinating seawater for its own use it would be prepared to relax its grip on the West Bank aquifers.

          But now it appears that Israeli water planners see desalination as a means of retaining control of those aquifers.

          The desalination plant to supply the West Bank would parallel a similar US-funded reverse osmosis plant to fill taps on the hard-pressed Gaza Strip. The scheme has already been approved and funded, but is currently on hold because of continuing conflict in Gaza. Taken together, the two schemes would leave an independent Palestine more dependent on desalination than almost any other nation in the world."

          I'm not seeing anything here that suggests "stealing." Control? Yes, certainly. Stealing? Quite the opposite.

          I suggest that if you love your Palestinian brethren so much, you should go ahead and help out educating kids and helping them learn that tolerance is OK and that the path to prosperous and enlightened society lies in learning, normal fertility patterns, and technology.

          • Eli

            And one more thing to reiterate: that Israeli desalination plant will supply water to Palestinian territory as well!

          • Schlomotion

            I can't say how the desalination plans will turn out, but I definitely agree with your last sentence.

  • montlasky

    The answer to the Islamisation of Europe is also well stated in an recent op-ed by Caroline Glick. Whilsts no one doubts that the Westerners (the non Muslims) have always been prone to accepting anti Semitism over the years before,during and after World War 2 there were many of them who were not anti Semites and assisted the Jews of Europe at their peril saving them from the Holocaust. However, the demographics of Europe have changed so dramatically, as to make Europe generally unrecognisable. The Muslims are taking over Europe making the native europeans look on in fear and amazement and changing the demographices which are affecting Europes attitude in many directions, particularly in their anti Semitic views and pushing Sharia law in the process. I won't quote the figures of the Musim population in various countries here, France and UK in particular. Both these countries are heading for Caliphate status in the not so distant future at their present rate of progress in that direction. The clarion call for a wakeup in Europe and elsewhere is sounding loud and clear!

  • Ghostwriter

    Next thing you know,the Muslims will blame Jews and especially Jewish immigrants to America for all their problems. Wait,I forgot! They already do!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    When all is said and done my Jewish friends will remain who they are, good and decent people that
    I can not distinguish from any other American trying to do their best raising a family and making do.
    Anti-Semites are unfair and dishonest in mind and spirit . It is a testament to the goodness of the
    entire Israeli Nation that they have not obliterated the false Palestinians and have made good offer
    after good offer for years with no response but more murder and mayhem. It is probably time for
    the long suffering Israeli population to change their mind and face the fact Islam is never going to
    live in peace with them or anyone else. There are millions of Americans who see the rightness of
    the Israeli people and will do all they can to help when the final idiocy of Islam unfolds…………William

  • johnnywoods

    It`s like a Nazi swine once stated,"Tell a big enough lie often enough people will believe it".

  • RiverFred

    A French Priest by the name of Patrick Desbois, author of" Holocaust By Bullets", President of Yahad-In Unum, has dedicated his life to confronting anti-Semitism. Asked the persistent question – How could they let this happen? Why didn't people speak up and cry out against this? We might now begin to understand how this is can happen. When mainstream news media , plays down our increasing debt, makes Islam sound palatable, turns a deaf ear to our tax paying citizens in favor of the concepts of Globalism/Islamism, socialism, illegal immigration and demonizes Israel by ominously implying that it is internationally viewed as an "apartheid" state and (also implying that the US is too for supporting Israel.) We begin to see the swing of the pendulum and the momentum of hatred that is behind it. When our President openly sides with Islamic countries, (As Hitler did with The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini) we can see just "how this can happen."

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Yet in his statements after 9/11, bin Laden mentioned the real reason: the “humiliation and disgrace” inflicted on Muslims by the dissolution of the caliphate in 1924.

    Well, first of all, there is no such thing as Islamists, or what you really mean radical Muslims. Their existence is a false PC multiculturalism myth. Thus, they only exist in your very vivid imagination and in your delusional fantasies.

    Second, OBL hates our guts not because of the dissolution of the caliphate in 1924, but because like all Muslims he is obligated per the dictates of Islam to maintain nothing but enmity in his heart for all non-Muslim unbelievers. Furthermore, just like all other mainstream orthodox Muslims, anything he utters to non-Muslim unbelievers is taqiyya meant to dupe gullible useful idiots.

    given the contempt most Arabs have shown for the people who ran away in 1948 rather than fight

    Uhm who ran away? Nobody ran away, they voluntarily left on their own accord at the urging of the Arab Higher Committee and their Imams to make way for the invading Arab/Islamic armies. They were told that they would soon be able return to their homes to claim as booty the property of the dead Jews who were supposed to be annihilated or driven into the Mediterranean Sea.

    or the way Arab countries herded Palestinian refugees into squalid camps existing on international welfare

    Woe there slick, you're jumping the gun here. Back in those days the Jews were known as Palestinians and the Arabs were called, well Arabs. The Arabs didn't morph into so-called Palestinians until after 1964 when they were created out of whole cloth by the Soviet KGB in Moscow to dupe gullible useful idiots by camouflaging the Islamic world's permanent genocidal jihad of conquest being wage perpetually against the Jewish unbelievers in Israel under a cloak of nationalism. Which is really absurd if you know anything about Islam and you know very little, as nation-states are a Western manifestation and un-Islamic and blasphemous abominations that must all be obliterated, as Muslims only believe in a one world caliphate. Nevertheless, that disinformation campaign worked like a charm to dupe millions of gullible useful idiots all over the planet.

    Western demonization and scapegoating of Israel have warped our foreign policy and our tactics for confronting jihadist terror and its state sponsors like Iran and Syria.

    Actually, the whole notion of state sponsorship of terrorism is an utterly absurd false PC multicultural myth. Buddy, when it comes to understanding Islam, you are still way back in the latter part of 2001. In other words, you don't have the first clue about what you are writing about and you sure didn't learn a damn thing in the ensuing years via the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan that were both preordained to fail because they were both premised on false PC multicultural myths and misconceptions about Islam of the kind you like to spew ad nauseum. If I were you, I would take time off from writing about Islam and take a crash course in Islam from a reputable instructor like me.

    • Western Canadian

      Anyone taking ‘instruction’ from you could only roll on the floor laughing at your self-aggrandizement, ignorance, pompous idiocy and general narcissist stupidity. Or, if they were as ignorant and dim witted as you are, end up the same sad, sorry and contemptible rut you are in.

  • Ed Rukab

    Arabs and Jews of Palestine lived harmoniously as friends and neighbors prior to the creation of Israel. And the Palestinian Jews did not adhere to the European ashkenazi claim "this land is mine". If some aliens came and uprooted you and your family from your home because of some Biblical fantasy-fable and murdered your family you would'nt like it, would you? And, enough already with the accusations of anti-semitism. Arabs are semites. Are not the atrocities against civilian, including defenseless woomen and children, by IDF anti-semitic? And, to deny that Zionists do not pressure and intimidate D C politicos is a Zio-lie! Why else do those pandering fools have to attend the AIPAC convention and avow their loyalty to a foreign regime? (Yeah, Newt, the real invented people are the Israelis, circa 1948). It's not PROMISED LAND, it's STOLEN LAND!

    • Western Canadian

      Complete and utter rubbish. Hebron, among others, demonstrates just how “peaceful” the arabs were, prior to the re-creation of the state of israel.