Besides the illusion of “Islamic democracy,” another telltale symptom of Spring Fever (the title and subject of my new book) is the fantasy that Palestinians want peace — which is to say, peaceful coexistence with their Israeli neighbors. Thus the shrieking over Mitt Romney’s matter-of-fact observation of the matter of fact that the Palestinians do not want peace. (Investor’s Business Daily has a typically fine editorial on the subject.)
It as silly to portray this as a matter for serious discussion as it is dishonest to claim that American officials in Libya were killed in a “spontaneous” eruption of violence over a cockamamie movie no one ever saw. In The Grand Jihad, I recalled a grisly but all too common event to explain why:
In 1979, Smadar Kaiser, her husband Danny, and their two small daughters, four-year-old Einat and two-year-old Yael, were awakened in their northern Israel apartment at midnight by gunfire and exploding grenades. A team of terrorists sent by Abu Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Front was in the neighborhood. While a trembling Smadar hid with Yael in the dark, suffocating crawl space, the terrorists grabbed Danny and Einat and marched them down to a nearby beach. There, one of the four shot Danny in front of his daughter so that his death would be the last sight she’d ever see. Then the ruthless ringleader, Lebanese-born Samir Kuntar, bashed in the four-year-old’s skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. Hours later, upon finally being “rescued” from the crawl space, two-year-old Yael, too, was dead—accidentally smothered by her petrified mother in the effort to keep her quiet as the terrorists searched for more Jews to kill.
The Israelis captured Kuntar, who was sentenced to life in prison. For years, however, Palestinian leaders and masses agitated for his release, lionizing this monster as a “brave leader” and “model warrior.” In 2007, the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally capitulated, exchanging Kuntar and other imprisoned terrorists for the remains of two deceased Israeli soldiers. Kuntar was welcomed to the West Bank as a conquering hero. The Palestinian Authority granted him and another released terrorist honorary citizenship “as an act of dedication to their struggle and their heroic suffering in the occupation’s prisons.”
Such blood-curdling stories—and this one is hardly singular—do not stop us from living a “Religion of Peace” fantasy. In an astounding interview shortly before Kuntar’s release, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the columnist Cal Thomas, “You can look at any opinion poll in the Palestinian territories and 70 percent of the people will say they’re perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace.”
It doesn’t do justice to the ludicrousness of Rice’s claim to say the opposite is true. It’s much worse than that. Reliable polling at the time showed that 93 percent of young Palestinian adults (aged eighteen to twenty-five) deny Israel’s right to exist— as compared with “only” 75 percent when the total population is factored in. How could it be otherwise? The cause of destroying the “Zionist entity” is seen as a core religious obligation. It is an explicit constitutional command of both Hamas and Fatah, the factions that control, respectively, Gaza and the West Bank. It is the soundtrack of Palestinian life, the leitmotif of the media and Islamic schools controlled by the authorities.
Israel serves as the commentariat’s unified field theory for explaining all Islamic hostility. The theory is fatuous. The most influential Muslim jurisprudential authorities endorse the principle that killing American and allied military personnel in order to induce them to leave Iraq and Afghanistan is a duty. It was the American military presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the first Gulf War that inspired al Qaeda to take its jihad global. That Westerners in Islamic countries believe they are sacrificing to defend Muslims and provide them with a chance for a better life is irrelevant. In the eyes of the “umma,” the world’s Muslims, they are occupiers. They must be expelled or slaughtered.
It is true enough that fewer Muslims actively incite terrorism than passively endorse it. Fewer yet materially support terrorist plots, and the subset that would actually carry them out is smaller still. That is cold comfort, though. The unmistakable reality for those willing to see it is that Muslim approval of terrorism increases dramatically when Muslims perceive a place as Islamic territory, or associate a target with a Western government seen as occupying or interloping in Islamic territory. Furthermore, if we broaden the scope from attitudes about terrorism to attitudes about the imposition of sharia—i.e., about the regulation of all life’s aspects by Islamic law, and the consequent evisceration of the line dividing the secular from the spiritual—Muslim support goes through the roof.