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MUHAMED AL DURAH:
GLOBAL HATRED, GLOBAL JIHAD

 

Muhamed al Durah's picture has swept through Palestinian society, fomenting the most profound hatred of the Israelis who, in the accompanying narrative, killed the innocent child "in cold blood." He became not merely the poster child for the "Al Aqsa Intifada," but for a new round of global Jihad, inspiring Arab Muslims like Osama bin Laden and Pakistani Muslims like the executors of Daniel Pearl. Mistaking the image for reality, and the "Intifada" for a nationalist uprising, the West has responded in ways that intensified global Jihad and the suffering of Muslims and "infidels" the world over. Revisiting this critical icon and the moment that it burst upon the scene offers one of the few paths out of this current spiral of violence.


If Palestinians really want peace, there is no better place they can start the process, than to tell their own people the hard truths about the lies that led them to a mad war, lies that continue to poison the minds of their children and people all around the world, even to this day. Only then can they hope to break free from such icons of hatred and their accompanying cult of death, idolatry of violence, and altars of child sacrifice.


Only then can Mohamed al Durah live or rest in peace.

 

Whether he intended to or not, Enderlin, in spreading Talal's accusations that the Israelis had deliberately targeted the boy and his father - "forty five minutes shooting at the boy" had an electric effect on the world community. The month of October saw a wave of attacks on Israelis and Jews the world over, especially in Europe, largely among the Arab and Muslim populations. Muhamed Al Durah was the patron saint of the Durban conference (August 2001) which turned from its purpose, anti-racism, into an anti-Zionist hate-fest: Muhamed's body paraded in effigy, his father telling his tale to all comers. The movement gained impetus so that by the time reports of a massacre at Jenin spread through Europe, the general public held those demonstrations of support for suicide bombing - models wearing nothing but suicide belts - that Oriana Fallaci raged against in her famous piece, "The Shame of Europe" (April 2002). To this day the ease with which people publicly call Israel racist, and genocidal, and compare her with the Nazis, reflects a radical shift set in motion by the Al Durah tale and its consequences. When good people - liberals and progressives who would normally be horrified by targeting innocent civilians - were asked why they did not denounce suicide terrorism in 2001, they replied with comments such as, "What choice do they have?" They were, in essence, saying, "If you kill their kids in cold blood, what do you expect?"

 

The impact of Muhamed's image was greatest in the Arab and Muslim world where it circulated as an intentional killing and gave immediacy to a new wave of media-slick recyclings of the classic anti-Semitic literature from Europe - blood libelsProtocols - a frenzy of hatred. This hatred fed a genocidal rhetoric that fueled the Intifada's attack on Israelis on either side of the green line. Sermon after sermon, rerun on Palestinian TV, had imams calling for killing the Jews wherever they are in the world. The apocalyptic hadith about how at the end of time, the Muslims will slaughter the Jews and the Jews will take refuge, and even the rocks and the trees will call out, "Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come kill him," became a staple of Palestinian rhetoric.

 

Before Al Durah, suicide terrorism came from an apocalyptic fringe of Jihadi Islamism, if not denounced, certainly not supported by a majority of Muslim clerics, even Palestinian ones. After that terrible footage had played day and night over and over on PATV, even the "secular" Fatah factions had to come up with suicide terrorists, just to keep up. Eventually they came up with their own innovation to get ahead in the race to madness - female suicide terrorists. National Geographic has made a documentary about them, titled "Female Suicide bombers: Women who are dying to kill."

 

What Enderlin may not have understood when he claimed that the boy and the father were "the target of fire coming from the Israeli position," is that according to the Sharia on Jihad, Muslims may not kill the women and children among their enemies, unless they kill Muslim civilians. When Osama bin Laden made a recruiting video before 9-11, he had a special section on Muhamed claiming that when they murdered him, they killed every child in the world. Daniel Pearl was executed as a Jew in that grisly style to which we have become unfortunately familiar - throat slit before the cameras - witha picture of al Durah behind him and scenes of al Durah spliced into the slitting of his throat. The original footage with Enderlin's narrative of intention, operates the same way as blood libels and the Protocols, as a warrant for genocide. Muhamed is not only the icon of the Intifada, he's an icon of global Jihad.

 

The image of Al Durah permeates the Arab world. There are streets named after it (in Egypt, the street where the Israeli embassy is located, to which the Iranians responded by renaming the street where the Egyptian embassy is located after the assassins of Sadat), postage stamps, memorials. It was the logo of Al Jazeera as that station went from a pesky station in Qatar at the end of the 20th century to the first trans-Arab media giant in the 21st century.

 

In particular this image has worked its poison with immense power on the population of Palestine. Israeli intelligence could virtually predict the level of violence the following day by how often PATV showed the footage - the doctored, Pallywood version with the Israeli soldier firing at the boy. Children learn the story in school, reenact it in plays as early as kindergarten. When the intifada flagged, especially when parents kept their children home lest they be recruited as "martyrs", the PA produced a slick video in which Muhamed calls to other children his age to join him in martyrdom, beckoning them to a heaven that includes green fields for flying kites and ferris wheels,. When, from the earliest days of the intifada onwards, 70% or more of the Palestinian population expressed support for suicide bombing of Israeli civilians, they have in mind the image of Al Durah.

 

Anyone who consults MEMRI or Palestinian Media Watch is aware of the frenzy of anti-semitic discourse that has become standard fare for much of the Arab world's main stream media. There, everything is conspiracy theory, with demonizing paranoia as the dominant tone. Some think that poverty and lack of hope cause terrorism (even though there is no empirical evidence for such a conclusion). Others understand that terrorism comes from hatred and paranoid fears that if "we" don't exterminate "them", they will exterminate us. What separates Palestinians and Israelis now is not "mistrust" (which presumably can be corrected), but pathological paranoia. And one of the most powerful pillars of that immensely destructive world-view is Muhamed Al Durah.

 

If we wish to have the Israelis and the Palestinians come to a negotiated and successful settlement to their conflict, one of the key elements in the process will be detoxifying Palestinians from their paranoid hatreds. To do so will also mean resisting the reflex to insist on Israeli paranoia in a rush to even-handedness. Just as we need to factor in self-criticism in assessing narratives, so we need to factor in concrete evidence in assessing people's fears and paranoia. The evidence of Arab desire to exterminate the Jews is so abundant, that an impartial observer might even be moved to ask if the Israelis, especially those who launched Oslo, and hastened to Geneva, were not in deep denial. Inversely, the Arab narrative of Israeli intentions so far exceeds the evidence that one has to wonder how it could go so far off track. Palestinian spokesmen rant on about "fifty years of genocidal policies" by Israelis, referring to the period of Israeli rule during which the Palestinian population grew at twice the rate of the Israelis. Such spin-off of even more ludicrous hate speech does not belong at any self-respecting peace rally.

 

The Al Durah affair is a striking example of the ways in which the Palestinian people's leadership has lied to them in order to lead them into suicidal violence. Any viewer of Farenheit 9-11 who felt indignant about George W. Bush's alleged prevarications leading America into war, should presumably feel even more indignant about the PA uses of Al Durah. At least the US President thought he could win the war; the PA's strategy, was to start a war they would lose and would bring immense suffering to their people.

 

Historically Arab elites (including Palestinian) have viewed Palestinian suffering as an advantage - hence never resettling refugees - as long as they could blame Israel. And as long as the Western media and public opinion continue to accept whatever the Palestinians claim about Israel, these victimizing elites have no reason to change. Historically speaking this is one of the classic functions of anti-Semitic discourse: elites blame the Jews for the suffering they themselves inflict on their own people. Scapegoating is a drug that cuts the pain inflicted by those who urge their deceived populations into deflecting their anger. As the unusually self-critical Muslim Irshad Manji says, Anti-Zionism in the Arab world is a "weapon of mass distraction."

 

Viewed from this perspective, the Al Durah affair has many parallels to the Dreyfus affair: it is, in crucial ways, a gateway to modernity, to the self-criticism and self-correction needed by any political culture that hopes to serve the interests of its people and not its entrenched and predatory elites. As the Oslo process showed, Palestinian leaders are capable of saying all kinds of good things in English, while preaching hatred to their people in Arabic. Despite the version our mainstream media gave us about Sharon provoking the Intifada, Arafat's own people admit he planned it long before.

 

If Palestinians really want peace, there is no better place they can start the process, than to tell their own people the hard truths about the lies that led them to a mad war, lies that continue to poison the minds of their children and people all around the world, even onto this day. Only then can they "hope Palestinian society will soon be rid of all of these images" and their accompanying idolatry of violence... cult of death... altars of child sacrifice.

 

Only then can Mohamed Al Durah rest in peace.

 

RICHARD LANDES

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