On Monday morning we were greeted with the news that the State Department has issued a new advisory on travel to Europe. It seems that there has been a recent spike in “chatter” among European-based terrorists. And when terrorists talk to one another, there is only one thing they could be talking about: the murder of innocents. That, after all, is what terrorists do.
As if such terrorist chatter weren’t disturbing enough, it tends to spur a secondary wave of chatter that is almost as troubling. Every time the terrorists get active, so do the Israel bashers. Once again we will be told that American support for Israel is the source of terrorist rage. Once more we will be promised that if we only abandoned Israel, we’d see the terrorists lay down their suicide bombs. Before you can say “jihad,” we will hear voices blaming our ally rather than confronting our enemy.
This thinking is so wrong on so many levels that it’s tempting to dismiss it as so much crazy talk. Yet polling has shown that when Americans are asked why the terrorists hate us, they actually cite our support for Israel more than any other factor. Given the choice between a harsh reality and a convenient scapegoat, it seems that the scapegoat will win every time. Thus we need to confront this myth before it spreads even further.
To debunk the linkage between support for Israel and terror, we should note at the outset that the most recent threats have been against European nations, not the United States. The nations at issue – namely France and Germany– can hardly be considered outspoken supporters of Israel. Yet their distance from Israel does not placate the terrorists. Government criticism of Israel didn’t prevent the attacks on Madrid’s trains or Britain’s subways. Nor will it prevent future threats and plots.
Indeed, it came to light over the weekend that Al Qaeda operatives had recently planned a Mumbai-style mass murder attack in Denmark. That’s right – Denmark. The Danes have never been particularly enthusiastic supporters of Israel. All poor Denmark ever did was host the headquarters of a newspaper which published unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The plotters had planned to storm the newspaper’s Copenhagen offices, kill everyone inside, and then fight to death with the police.
Bin Laden’s own words further demonstrate the real roots of terror. Before his first attack against us, Bin Laden declared war against the United States in a long and rambling “fatwa,” or religious ruling. In this foundational document, Bin Laden mentions Israel only in passing. The overwhelming majority of the diatribe is focused on what Bin Laden saw as the real problem: the presence of “infidel” American troops on the Arabian Peninsula. Yes, we may have sent these troops there to protect the Saudis. But to Bin Laden, the presence of Christian, Jewish and female soldiers in the birthplace of Islam was a humiliation which could not be tolerated. Only years later did Bin Laden begin to mention Israel more often, no doubt in response to the sympathy this particular grievance receives in the West.
The fact is that Al Qaeda’s rage is directed against the West as a whole – both those nations that are pro-Israel and those that are not. Given Al Qaeda’s theological and intellectual roots, this should come as no surprise. Al Qaeda and other Sunni Muslim terrorist groups such as Hamas are ideological outgrowths of an organization called the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has been anti-Western in general – and anti-American in particular — since its creation. Yet here’s the key point: the Muslim Brotherhood was created in 1928, a full twenty years before there even was an Israel.
There is, of course, another powerful stream of anti-Americanism in the Middle East that has little to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. And this hate emanates from radical Shiite clergy and their stronghold of power in Iran. This Iranian hatred of America dates back to 1956, the year that the CIA helped to engineer the coup that ousted Iranian President Mohammad Mosaddegh and restored the Shah to his throne. Every Islamic activist imprisoned and tortured by the Shah saw past the monarch’s peacock throne and directed their hatred towards those who put in him power. This explains why one of the first acts of the Islamic Revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah in 1979 was to attack the American Embassy and hold our embassy employees hostage. This also explains why Israel was barely mentioned during that long, dark crisis.
The Shiite hatred of Israel came later, and grew out of the anti-Americanism inherent in Iran’s Islamic revolution. In short, the Iranians do not hate America because we stand with Israel. The exact opposite is true. The Iranians and the Shiite Muslim terrorists they support hate Israel because they see Israel an outpost of America in the Middle East. When Ahmadinejad called for America’s leaders to be “buried” just two days ago, he was merelycontinuing in a long tradition of anti-Americanism that has always been the Islamic Republic’s primary obsession.
We all pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We all long for the day when Israel will live in peace with her neighbors behind recognized, defensible borders. Yet in the meantime, we mustn’t permit Israel’s critics to perform the rhetorical jujitsu that places all of our rage against the terrorists on Israel’s shoulders. Israel cannot be blamed for Al Qaeda terror. Israel is not the source of Iranian threats or Hezbollah murder. To see our support for Israel as the cause of these dangers would be to excuse atrocity and blame our ally and fellow victim. We must recognize that when it comes to terrorism, Israel is not the problem. Israel is, on the contrary, our first line of defense.
David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel and author of a new book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity. You can follow David on Facebook by clicking here and on Twitter by clicking here.