If I ever had a Westerner’s blissful naïveté that Muslim-fundamentalist
terrorists could be reasoned with – if even on a quantum scale – it completely
eroded into the ether after I moved to Israel last July. Since then, I have
witnessed and read of enough unspeakable manifestations of evil perpetrated by
these people – ranging from the murders of sleeping babies, children riding
school buses, to pregnant women – to make Charles Manson shudder.
name it, they do it. Indeed, nothing is beneath them.
Simply put, the
members of Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad, et al. are unimaginable
monsters who would sooner strap their own newborns to crudely built rockets with
hopes of (the off-chance) of killing just one Israeli in the Negev, before
negotiating meaningful terms of coexistence. Of peace.
They are numerous,
they are evil, they are highly motivated and organized, and they are cowards who
hide behind human shields comprised of women and children.
Only a fool
would attempt to negotiate with such a soulless, unconscionable enemy. It would
be the equivalent of attempting to reason with the mythical killing machine,
Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th.
In short, all terrorists must be dealt
with in the harshest terms possible – preemptively – to prevent them from
harming another single hair on the heads of even one more Israeli man, woman or
child. End of argument.
However, it is an enormous mistake to think that
these rabid murderers are representative of the entire Arab population living in
Israel. I learned this, with relative astonishment, shortly after moving
Let’s start off with hard facts: According to Israel’s most current
Central Bureau of Statistics survey, in 2010 the Muslim population of Israel is
roughly 1,575,000 – representing slightly over 20 percent of the entire
Of this population, roughly 83% is Sunni Muslim and
9% is Druse. Roughly 160,000 Beduin live in Israel as well.
while the Israel Police do not make available homicide and assault statistics on
Arab-Israeli on Jewish-Israeli crime, it is well known that the numbers are
remarkably low. Indeed, most Arab-Israeli violent crime takes place within the
confines of their own communities.
Now, you would be forgiven for
thinking that life among all Muslims and Jews living side-by-side in Israel
could be reduced to an epic, albeit simplistic, feud, à la the Hatfields vs the
McCoy’s, Jets vs Sharks, cowboys vs Indians, Sarah Palin vs intellect,
In fact, it would be difficult not to draw this conclusion,
considering the chronic oversimplification the international media present of
Indeed, in the media’s endless pursuit to tell
definitively complex stories with ever-greater brevity, ease and bluster – with
all the depth of a Dixie Cup – it has reduced a spectrum of complicated problems
here into a decidedly black-and-white hue, thus creating a remarkably simple
narrative that most four-year-olds could follow with great
Listen, time is money, competition is fierce – and if it bleeds,
it leads. I get that.
BUT HERE’S the problem: By trying to explain the
dynamics of the Middle East to a mass audience in segments purposely truncated
as to enable critical breaking news reports about Lindsey Lohan’s latest
breathalyzer results, the cast of The Jersey Shore’s historic contractual
negotiations, and new photos of Kim Kardashian’s cellulite, the media have
complicitly contributed to misinforming the public about important peaceful
realities here, happening right now.
The story of Israel
cannot be told in generalities, and those who do so are simply adding more fuel
to an already absurdly out-of-control fire.
To be fair, back in the
United States I was as guilty as anyone of regurgitating an ignorant narrative
that did nothing other than leave the situation at a monolithic “Us vs Them”
But, to my shock, as soon as I stepped foot on Israeli soil, I
came across countless Muslims every single day.
Be it on a bus, the
doctor’s office, grocery store, or record store – you name it – we crossed
They are everywhere, and they are polite, rude, funny, sad,
intellectuals, imbeciles, happy, patient, angry, proud, miserable, beautiful,
ugly – and everything in between. In short, they have the same intrinsic nuances
as you and I.
And guess what? Whenever I interact with Arab-Israelis,
there isn’t even the slightest hint of tension – just normal people going about
their lives, hoping to get from point A to point B with as little hassle as
Pretty boring, right?
But really, who wants to hear about
harmony among Jews and Muslims? It’s so counterintuitive and unhelpful in
propagating the ever-lucrative narrative of hate. There’s just no money in it
for media executives, and they know it.
On a personal level, I have a
friend who is a security guard at The Jerusalem Post
who is Egyptian, and a
proud and observant Muslim. Imagine that? A Muslim protecting a Jew!
He is also
an extremely refined and dignified man, has a hell of a sense of humor, and
works hard to support his family back in Egypt.
Every time I see him, I
stop to shake his hand and ask him how he and his family are doing, and then we
usually exchange off-color jokes.
Last month I expressed concern to him
about fasting all day during Ramadan, and told him that I respected his
sacrifice, but also wanted him to stay healthy. In return, he always smiled at
me, shook my hand, and asked how me and my family were doing.
I have no
doubt that he will also express concern for me when I fast on Yom Kippur next
We frequently talk about subjects no more interesting than our
favorite movies, women, sports, the weather and how hard it is to earn a buck
these days before I return to my computer to get back to work.
mind, this man and I are brothers, albeit, from very different mothers – but
brothers just the same. I know he would protect me, as I would protect him. It
doesn’t matter that we are a Jew and a Muslim.
We respect each other as
men, and members of the human race.
And here’s the best part: There are
thousands of people like him here who are honorable, humane, peaceful and
tolerant – who would help a Jew in distress just as quickly as a Muslim. But you
don’t see a lot of stories in the media covering this phenomenon, do you?
Indeed, if you’re looking for the ever-elusive successful model of Muslim/Jewish
coexistence, you need to look no farther than Israel itself.
news, isn’t it?
Clearly, the more cynical among us will argue that I am naïve –
that the equation is indeed black and white – that a Muslim is a Muslim, and a
Jew is a Jew, and so on, and so on... And while there are certainly very serious
socioeconomic and cultural tensions among Arabs and Jews here – as well as
undeniable hostility in certain circles – the low murder and assault rates
between the two groups in this uniquely democratic state cannot be
Furthermore, to the likely astonishment of the world, over the
past few months Israeli Jews and Arabs have united across the country to stage
massive and peaceful ongoing protests for social and economic justice for their
mutual benefit. Isn’t that newsworthy?
Ultimately, the six-million-dollar
question is this: When will the decent and humane Muslims – who vastly outnumber
their terrorist counterparts – finally utilize their numbers and take a
meaningful stand against their profoundly lost brothers?
In the meantime,
Muslims and Jews are busy peacefully and productively living their lives
side-by-side, right in the belly of the beast itself.
It’s one of the
greatest stories not being firstname.lastname@example.org