A Book I Need to Read -- a follow-up to my Israel/Lebanon post last night: 2:45 EST (it is standard time this time of year, right? I can never keep that straight) -- I'm watching a compelling interview, right now on CNN, with one Walid Shoebat, identified as a former PLO terrorist (this is the cute caption under his image). Mr. Shoebat has written a book, "Why I Left Jihad." I realize I'm running the risk of sounding like a rabid Israel apologist, by harping on this theme. Actually, I'm no such thing -- I truly am sympathetic to the plight of Palestinian refugees, as well as the sorry situation in which Palestinians within the occupied territories find themselves. Even the second-class citizen status that most Israeli Arabs must endure profoundly troubles me.
Still, if you read my last post, you know I believe that things cannot change for the better until Arabs make clear they are ready to respect and make real peace with Israel -- more than just an absence of open warfare, there must be a genuine acceptance, and a willingness to normalize relations. In that vein, I'm ready to recommend Shoebat's book to anyone and everyone...and that's without even reading it. Apparently, Mr. Shoebat is the genuine article -- he planted a bomb in a Bank Leumi branch, among other crimes. Yet, along the way, he had an epiphany.
Mr. Shoebat says that the Arab obsession with "Palestine" has become "a pathology." The quotation marks are because Shoebat suggests that 'Palestine' exists as an ideology (an existential locus of hate, more than a place on the map -- in this circumstance, a pathology rather than a serious, legitimate political cause. According to Shoebat, the core "problem is a massive, racist ideology" that is spread throughout the Arab world, being taught especially in the mosques. Shoebat says he began speaking here, around 1993, to various groups (synagogues, etc.), warning that these fanatics wanted to blow up American buildings and cut off our heads. Very prophetic. Obviously, as someone who lived on the inside of the jihad, he has real insight into the psychology -- the hateful dogmatic thinking that guides these anti-Zionist, anti-Western religious warriors.
The solution, according to Shoebat is not to destroy these groups but to educate the populace in something other than hate. No kidding. Israel famously made a point of demonstrating the differences in tone and substance between the PLO's Arabic-language rhetoric (aimed at fanning the flames of terror), and the group's English-language statements designed to curry Western favor. Of course, even in supposedly moderate, Western-friendly states like Saudi Arabia, the government-controlled media and schools are just as guilty as the demagogic mullahs of fanning the flames of hatred.
The dehumanization of the Zionist enemy remains at the core of the pan-Arab, Islamist doctrine. Even in this country, Islamic schools are used to promote the hateful, "racist ideology" that Shoebat describes (See http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2489). Can the peace-loving peoples of the world dare to hope that will someday change? Will the Arab regimes take serious steps to stem the flow of the fanaticism they are now encouraging.
It is no longer any great, original insight to point out that these regimes are producing militants that turn on the regimes about as often as they go after the West and Israel. The real question, then, is when will this dynamic begin to change? When will Arab leaders do more than speak hollow, duplicitous niceties only to Westerners -- and, instead, start this necesssary, radical transformation to foster real understanding between peoples? Why I Left Jihad sounds as if it should be a required read throughout the Middle East. Shoebat's message should be carried to every Islamic media outlet, mosque and madrassah worldwide.