It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Osama bin Laden’s
terrorists hijacked four planes and destroyed the World Trade Center Towers in
The event changed the dynamics of the world and
political realities in the Middle East.
In one aspect, Israel immediately
benefited from the attacks. Most Americans, who already supported Israel over
the Arabs and Palestinians, only reinforced that support through the negative
stereotypes bin Laden’s attacks fueled.
In truth, bin Laden’s terrorism
did very little to impact the West. But his actions did much to reinforce what
many Arabs believe are the injustices of the Middle East conflict.
Laden, who tried, after the fact, to claim his attacks were intended to “help”
the Palestinians, only reinforced public feelings in favor of Israel and against
Palestinians. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was also quick to exploit the
Immediately (and wrongly) a video of one Arab lady
dancing and handing out candy after the attack created a false ugly perception
that is still in place.
Ironically, although Israel benefited from the
anti-Arab backlash, the terrorist attack actually strengthened global Islam and
weakened Israel’s future. Those Muslims who supported bin Laden, and those many
more who did not, all benefited from the terrorism in a way that bin Laden never
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The identity of the “Arab” was weakened, and the Islamist
movement rose in stature. Suddenly news media talking heads were chasing
anything “Muslim,” and several Muslim organizations that were somewhat obscure
became major organizations overnight, like CAIR (Council on American Islamic
On the one hand, Israel might see this division in the
Middle East between “Arab” and “Muslim” as benefiting their agenda, but
long-term, it does not. Arabs are secular, and secular Arabs would embrace the
concept of “compromise” more easily than Muslims who are more religious and
“less” Arab because they are not suffering the consequences of the 1948
ALTHOUGH THE words “Muslim” and “Arab” are often used
interchangeably, the causes each group represents are not interchangeable.
Palestine is viewed as an “Arab” problem.
Although it has become one of
many Muslim causes, it is no longer “the” cause – just one among
That has created a new imbalance in how the world views the Middle
East.Today in the West, no one speaks about “better understanding the Arab,” but
many officials, government agencies and societal leaders talks about the need to
improve relations with Muslims.
In the United States, for example, the
public drive is to find ways to work with Muslims, not Arabs. President Barack
Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 was not to the “Arab World,” it was to the
“Muslim World.” The focus of many of the upcoming September 11 10th Anniversary
commemorations, which seek to bridge differences between the two sides, are
appealing to the West and “Muslims,” not to Arabs.
Arabs are on the
losing end of the battle. They are both blamed for the terrorism and punished
for it. Muslims get blamed for the terrorism, too, but there is far more of a
concerted effort to work with and better understand them.
No one is
trying to understand the “Arab,” but the key to Middle East peace is there. On
the face of it, that may seem comforting to Israel, whose primary fight is with
the Palestinian Arabs. But it’s deceiving. By pushing the “Arab” identity out of
the equation, also being pushed aside are the chances of compromise with those
who are Arabs. The Muslims are a religious identity. Arabs are not. Muslims
cannot compromise on faith or their beliefs; Arabs can compromise more
The late president Yasser Arafat accepted many compromises with
Israel. To this day, Hamas and its religious leaders refuse any
They’ll accept “lulls” and other devices to delay what they
hope will be the inevitable destruction of Israel.
What it all means is
that Israel faces a much tougher adversary in coming decades on the question of
Palestine, which is not really a priority of the Muslim World but is not
The 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 will be here
in a few weeks.
But the changes it has effected will be with us for
generations. Some changes will be good. But when it comes to the Middle East,
many, many more of the changes will be bad. Bad for the Arabs.
the West. And very bad for Israel.The writer is an award-winning
columnist and Palestinian activist.www.hanania.com
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