In the Shadow of 9/11: Hate of Culture, or Culture of Hate

When I was a teenager growing up in Egypt in 1956, no one taught me how to hate the French, the British, or the Israelis. All of them were invaders of my country. It was natural that I’d hate any aggressors who had occupied my homeland, killed numerous personal friends and fellow Egyptians (including women and children), traumatized my parents and grandparents, displaced my family as refugees within their own country, and interrupted my schooling.

Similarly no one asked me then to love the Americans and Russians. It came naturally to feel admiration and gratitude toward them, because they’d come to Egypt’s rescue, ordering the French, British and Israelis to get the hell out.

There is nothing extraordinary about these cultural hate-love relationships. People hate those who oppress, exploit, and terrorize them. It does not matter what ethnic group, religion, nationality, or political movement the oppressors belong to, or how much they may be the same as, or different from, their victims.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait , most Kuwaitis hated the Iraqis (both are Arab and largely Muslim) for what they’d done. When Palestinians profess hatred for Israelis, they do so because Israel is the collective occupier making their lives dismal, degraded, hopeless, robbing them and their children of any productive future. It is a natural response to oppression, having nothing to do with the fact that most Israelis are Jewish, or that most Palestinians are Muslim. Thus, it is disingenuous to call the Palestinians’ hatred of Israelis "anti-Semitic."

Similarly, most Iraqis today hate the Americans, who are seen only as killers of their people, and ruthless oppressors who traumatize women and children, or detain anyone from taxi-drivers to academics. Iraqis protest that they did not invite these new invaders, that America should go home and leave them alone.

North American aboriginal and First Nations people hated most of the white explorers, traders and pioneers — not because they were white, European, and Christian, or because they represented a different social culture. They hated whites because they were a collective oppressor, threatening to destroy their freedom, crush their religion, steal the sacred land held in trust for eons, and erase their culture by kidnapping the children and force-feeding them Christianity in so-called residential schools. They hated, and many still hate, the white invaders because they treated North America’s aboriginals and their ancient culture as inherently inferior.

In much the same way, Greeks historically learned to hate Turks, the French hated the Germans, the Algerians the French, and the Irish the British. All are classic examples of how victims naturally come to hate their oppressors.

Before and during the war on Iraq, burning the Stars and Stripes was common practice at public rallies and demonstrations attended by millions around the world. An American survey in December, 2002 found that international anti-Americanism has increased over the past two years, but is greatly concentrated in the Middle East and Central Asia.

According to the study, anti-U.S. sentiment ranked highest in Egypt and Pakistan, both of which are traditional American allies. It found that only 6 per cent of Egyptians and 10 per cent of Pakistanis have favourable views toward the U.S.

Apologists for aggressive American and Israeli foreign policies usually try to explain away the hatred by saying that the people (or victims) hate "our" culture, way of life, the freedom enjoyed by our women, etc.

What these apologists really mean is: "It is clear that these people hate us because of who we are, not because of what we do. There is no need for us to change. There is nothing wrong with our policies, our use of brutal violence, our occupation of their lands, our detaining of their people, etc."

Egyptians usually express a deep resentment of both U.S. and Israeli international policies, believing that (as most put it) "Israel and the U.S. are two faces of the same coin." But they also make it very clear that they do not hate either Americans or Israelis as people. And that’s an important distinction.

In his book Hatred’s Kingdom, Dore Gold — a hardline my-country-can-do-no-wrong Israeli writer — says the "hatred" in question is rooted in that brand of Islamic orthodoxy called Wahhabism, to which Saudi Arabia officially subscribes, and that it found its most horrific, world-shaking expression in the atrocities of 9/11.

But his argument is pure propaganda, for the best propaganda is not a lie. Rather, the best propaganda presents only part of the truth, and then slants it according to a predetermined bias.

The facts are that most Saudis are conservative Muslims. The majority of them are Sunni, while some are Shi’a. Some of the Sunni group follow the teachings of Imam Mohamed Ibn Abdul-Wahab (to whom the invented term "Wahhabism" refers), and some do not.

But Saudi "hatred" has nothing to do with who Americans and Israelis are, religiously or culturally. It has everything to do with how they treat fellow Arabs and Muslims. Moreover, this "hatred" has nothing to do with Saudi religion or culture either. It has everything to do with the natural law of everyone-hates-their-oppressors. It would be so, even if the oppressors were alien invaders from a distant galaxy — something Science Fiction writers understood long before politicans.

A year ago, Shaaban Abdel-Rehim, the flamboyant Egyptian pop singer, made global headlines when his song "Ana Bakrah Israel" (I Hate Israel) went platinum by selling an astonishing 4 million copies. That was superseded earlier this year, just prior to the American invasion of Baghdad, with the timely "Al-Darb fil ‘Eraaq" (Hitting Iraq).

"Enough! Chechnya, Afghanistan, Palestine, South Lebanon, Golan Heights, and now Iraq!" he opens, and then recalls in the following lyrics how powerless peoples have been victimized by their powerful oppressors.

Political hate can be dangerous because, as George Orwell once said, it "can be turned in any direction at a moment’s notice, like a plumber’s blow-flame." But political hate can be turned into proactive love when powerful nations uphold the truth as the American Declaration of Independence confirms that all [human beings] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."