John K. Wilson
I am surprised and disappointed that in the three years since Sept. 11, 2001, I have never heard or seen the media or our administration ask the question “why?” Why do they hate us so intensely that dozens of men (hijackers) would plan and carry out their own deaths along with nearly 3,000 innocent Americans? Why did Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, now number one on the U.S. wanted list, behead two U.S. civilian workers last month? When asked why he hated the U.S., he said “The occupation”.1 For the past 50 years, the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. support of Israel in that occupation has been the main reason for that intense hatred. Recently what many Muslims consider “the occupation of Iraq” has added fuel to that hatred.
Immediately after the infamous Sabra-Shatila massacre in Beirut in 1982, Tom Friedman and I witnessed the horrors of that massacre where more than 2,000 women and children and old men had been murdered under the flares of Israeli Gen. Ariel Sharon’s army. Friedman won the Pulitzer Prize for International Journalism for his report2. Sharon was found personally responsible by the Israeli-appointed Kahane Commission for what happened in the camps, was forced to step down as defense minister and spent the next several years in internal exile on his farm, ostensibly never to serve in public office again. He has been indicted by a court in Brussels, and today cannot travel to Belgium, where he would be tried as a war criminal.
For two months I worked in two bombed-out Palestinian hospitals. I saw blood on the walls of the nursery where newborns had been bashed against the wall, and I can tell you why they hate us. Palestinian hospitals had been bombed by the Israeli planes, in spite of red crosses on their roofs.
Dr. James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute and former Batten Professor at Davidson College recently stated that, “Positive attitudes towards Americans are between 3 and 9 percent in all Arab countries that we polled. Our leadership has failed us. Since Vietnam ended we have spent more money, sent more troops and invested more political capital in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world, yet we find ourselves in a war that we cannot win. Arabs hate American policies, and those policies have actually put Americans in more danger than they were before the invasion of Iraq"3.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, demands of the Israeli government, “Stop the beatings, stop the breaking of bones, stop the late night raids on people’s homes, stop using food as a weapon of war, stop pretending that you can respond to an entire people’s agony with guns and power"4. Palestinian children who were caught throwing stones had their hands crushed and adults had their leg bones broken by Israeli soldiers.
Harvard professor Sara Roy, whose parents were survivors of the Holocaust, can tell you why they hate us. She first went to the West Bank and Gaza in 1985 to conduct fieldwork for her doctoral dissertation. She says, “I was reminded of the Holocaust when Israeli soldiers painted identification numbers on Palestinian arms - and openly admit to shooting Palestinian children for sport"5.
In 1999 B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, reported that - “Of more than 1000 Palestinians detained last year, at least 850 were tortured.” The Sunday Times, London, June 19, 1977 reported - “Israeli interrogators routinely ill-treat and torture Arab prisoners. Prisoners are hooded or blindfolded and are hung by their wrists for long periods. Most are struck in the genitals or in other ways sexually assaulted. Others are administered electric shock.” Does this sound like Abu Ghraib? Israel did sign the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1991.
I ask you, why do most Europeans and Muslims around the world know these facts and most people in the U.S. never heard them?
Am I being anti-Semitic when I describe these horrors? No, I am being anti-terrorist and joining Rabbi Lerner, Sara Roy and thousands of other Jews, Muslims, Buddhist and Christians, YMCA executives, agriculturists and missionaries who have all witnessed these horrors and demand changes in our government’s policies. All of these people can tell us “Why they hate us.” Actually it is not us, the people, they hate. They love us and would love to come here. It is our policies that they hate.
From childhood I have been taught that when you have a problem, look for and remove the cause of that problem. A festering splinter or thorn will continue to fester until it is removed. If a small fraction of the billions spent on the war in Iraq had been spent feeding the hungry - demanding justice for the Palestinians - working with the United Nations to stop genocide in Sudan and other places - we might have more friends and fewer people hating us.
When our government and the government of Israel asks the question “Why do they hate us?” and truly starts working to make friends around the world, maybe the ever deepening quagmire in Israel and Iraq will begin to improve.
When the occupation of Iraq and Palestine ceases and when the destruction of homes and the killing of innocent civilians stops, maybe we will see a rainbow of hope on the horizon. There will be no peace in the Middle East - or in the world - until the occupations cease.