I’m afflicted by prejudice. After all, who has not been maligned by this flaw? A person who wishes to purify his views should identify the source of the grime and seek to clear it. I try. My people’s tragic history is like a siren that goes off every time I’m tempted to offer negative generalizations about other groups of people.
I hear frequent sirens when I condemn Arab societies. Be careful, I tell myself, the pot is calling the kettle black. After all, is Israeli society faultless?
However, recently my line of defense has become shaky. I desperately seek reasons to reject the realization that Arab culture, in is political manifestations, is terrible. I fear that its maladies lie at its core and that it will not be changing in the coming generations.
Horrific events are currently taking place in the Arab world and I cannot find any explanation for them that do not involve sweeping generalizations. Distinguishing between “Arab cultures” and “the Arabs,” and between “the Arabs” and “Arabs,” requires a growing intellectual effort.
For the sake of discussion with myself, I forgive them for their hostility to Jews, even though often is constitutes the most despicable kind of anti-Semitism. I judge them based on their attitude to their own kin.
The gravest events are taking place in Somalia. The worst drought in 60 years there is annihilating the cattle, the population’s main source of livelihood. Tens of thousands of people have died. At least 3.5 million people, one third of the country’s population, are facing life threatening hunger and thirst. The children are especially vulnerable: Their photos, with bellies protruding and flies covering their dry eyes, accelerated UN aid.
However, very little of that food makes in to the hungry mouths. Wide areas are controlled by armed organizations whose leaders are affiliated with Islamic Jihad. They love God. Their love for Allah is so great that they banned international aid organizations from providing food to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, who are pouring into neighboring countries – Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Ahmed Abdi Godan, the leader of the al-Shabab group, denied on his radio station that hunger prevails in Somalia. He claimed this is malicious propaganda produced by the enemies of Islam. “Our enemies’ new strategy is meant to expel Muslims to Christian countries, so that they lose their faith there and serve as soldiers in their armies.”
These Christians, that is, citizens of the West, donated so far some $1.1 billion to saving the refugees, while African states sent forces to Somalia to protect them. The UN secretary general pled with Arab states to take part in the effort. Qatar provided some $200,000. Kuwait provided half a million dollars. Saudi Arabia outdid them and donated $60 million, less than the price of oil it produces every hour.
Somalis are Muslim. They do not speak Arabic, but they are closer to the Arabs than to the Africans. The Arabs also recognize the Somalis as members of the great Arab nation and Somalia is therefore one of the Arab League’s 22 members. So what? Millions of Arabs can go ahead and die, as long as no gold tiles are taken from the palaces of the oil princes.
We can’t just isolate the Somalia case and convict only the states of the Arab Peninsula. Lebanon, Iraq and Syria are not similar to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in any way, with the exception of their Arab nature and the fact that there too we are seeing massacres, as if this is the way of the world.
In short, I urgently need explanations that will counter my tendency to say: “Well, what can we do about it – this is Arab culture for you.”