Amos Oz: We Israelis must not be seduced by the 'Great Satan' of fanatical hatred

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The Independent US

A tide of religious and nationalistic fanaticism is on the rise throughout Islam, from the Philippines to Gaza and Libya and Algeria, from Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq to Lebanon and Sudan.

A tide of religious and nationalistic fanaticism is on the rise throughout Islam, from the Philippines to Gaza and Libya and Algeria, from Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq to Lebanon and Sudan. Here in Israel we have been on the receiving end of this lethal tide: almost every day we witness the link between hateful incitement and mass murder, between religious sermons that celebrate jihad and their fulfilment in suicide bombs and car bombs against innocent civilians.

Being the victims of Arab and Muslim fundamentalism often blinds us to the rise of extremism not only in the domain of Islam but also in various parts of the Christian world and indeed among the Jewish people. If it turns out that America's dreadful ordeal results from the fact that mullahs and ayatollahs persistently portray her as "The Great Satan", then America, as well as Israel – "The Little Satan" – must prepare themselves for a long, hard struggle.

Perhaps it is only human that underneath the shock and the pain there is still a small voice in some of us here in Israel that says "now at last they will all understand what we are going through" or "they will finally all take our side".

But this small voice is extremely dangerous for us: it may easily seduce us into forgetting that, with or without Islamic fundamentalism, with or without Arab terrorism, there is no justification whatsoever for the lasting occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people by Israel. We have no right to deny Palestinians their natural right to self-determination. Two huge oceans could not shelter America from terrorism; the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel, are certainly not securing Israel; on the contrary, they make our own self-defence much harder and much more complicated. The sooner this occupation ends, the better it is for the occupied and the occupiers alike.

It is all too easy and tempting now to fall into all sorts of racist clichés about "Muslim mentality" or "Arab character" and other such rubbish. The horrendous crime committed against the cities of New York and Washington is a sharp reminder that this is not a war between religions, nor a struggle between nations. This is, once more, the battle between fanatics, for whom the end – any end, be it religious, nationalistic or ideological – sanctifies the means, and the rest of us, who ascribe sanctity to life itself.

Despite the abhorrent manifestation of celebration and joy in Gaza and Ramallah while people in New York were still burning alive, let no decent human being forget that the vast majority of Arabs and of other Muslims are neither accomplices to the crime nor rejoicing in it. Almost all are as shocked and aggrieved as the rest of humankind. Perhaps they even have some special reason for worrying, as some ugly sounds of indiscriminate anti-Islamic feelings can already be heard in some places. Such manifestations are no proper response to this crime; on the contrary, they are playing right into the eager hands of its perpetrators.

Let us remember: neither the West nor Islam nor the Arabs is "The Great Satan". "The Great Satan" is personified in hatred and fanaticism. These two ancient mental illnesses still bedevil us. Let us be careful not to be infected.

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