I recently read a book that talks about the source of a particular hatred – the hatred of Jews, also termed "anti-Semitism" by Wilhelm Marr, the founder of the German League of Anti-Semites in 1879. The thesis of the book, written by a German history professor, is that underneath all the religious, ideological, and racial excuses for hating the Jews, the real reason for anti-Semitism is just plain envy.

When seeing others "doing well", when we see talented and successful people, the positive reaction is to wish to emulate them, or at least learn from them. Envy, in contrast, is a negative, poisoned and destructive reaction. The professor explains in his book that Anti-Semites hate Jews because Jews are more successful, clever, wise, progressive and talented than they are, in other words: the negative reaction, envy. The ideological rationalizations come later, but are not the root cause. This envy was part of the deep psychological background that made the Holocaust possible.

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Without deciding if this theory is correct or not, it is interesting to look at some of the destructive behavior of much of the Arab world in relation to Israel, the Jewish state, through this lense. On a Friday sermon televised on Qatar TV in 2005, a Dr. Yousuf Al-Qaradawi said: "How come the Zionist gang has managed to be superior to us (the Arab countries), despite being so few? It has become superior through knowledge, through technology, and through strength. Is has become superior to us through work. We had the desert before our eyes, but we didn't do anything with it. When they took over, they turned it into a green oasis" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzRN1krq848&spfreload=10 starting at 4:34).


The point of the sermon appeared to be the need for the Arab world to learn from and emulate the Western world and the Jewish state. So the real question the doctor should have been asking in his sermon was this: what had prevented the Arab world from working with the Jews, over a century ago, when the Jews started to turn a desert into a green oasis? Why does the Arab world today not co-operate with the Jewish state and benefit from its knowledge, technology and all the rest?
Calling Israel the "Zionist gang" is an attempt to belittle and delegitimize the Jewish state. Why would Dr. Qaradawi do that? Why belittle, why not emulate? Is it perhaps because of envy, an envy that stems from unreasonable pride? Did this envy create an unwillingness to see the justice of the Jewish cause, to see the justice of the return of the Jews to their home? Did this envy cause them to prefer trying to destroy the Jews rather than work with them for the benefit of all the peoples in the Middle East?

It is also true that a big problem in the Arab world in general – and the Arabs in the Holy Land in particular – is that much of the leadership is corrupt or inept. Yet leaders are often a reflection of the society; the leaders are products of the societies they grew up in and now lead. This envy long predates the establishment of a Palestinian Authority, indeed predates the establishment of the Arab states. Qaradawi says in his sermon that the Arab world can buy anything it wants, from needles to airplanes, because they have ample oil resources, yet they do not produce things themselves as others in the world produce, or as Israel does. Why not emulate the others, unless a disdain based on pride causes envy instead?

The point is this: before constructing ideas and plans for building peace, it is more important, indeed urgent, to build a character in individuals conducive to positive co-operation. Can you imagine what a better place the Middle East could be if the Arab world worked with Israel rather than against the Jews? There is always hope for the future, but it would seem that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict lies not in politics, but in the construction of character free of envy.

 
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