Confronting a Legacy of Hatred

Hatred for Israel and the Jewish people in classrooms controlled by the Palestinian Authority is an ongoing problem. If and when a peace agreement is reached, how can a generation of Palestinian children and young people be deprogrammed?

How do we go about turning thousands of people trained to hate, kill, and eagerly explode themselves as suicide bombers into citizens respecting their neighbor’s right to life? It is a difficult question, but one we may eventually be forced to address.

Unfortunately, such destructive attitudes are not confined to places like Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin in the Middle East. They are being played out at this moment in schools and on college campuses in the United States, Canada, England, and other “civilized” countries in the West. How do we reform the thinking of these students?

In Britain a 14-year-old girl at London’s Jews’ Free School was punched, kicked, and called a “filthy Jew” by a gang of youths while she and two friends were riding on a double-deck bus. After being taunted, the three got up to leave the bus. “You’re not going anywhere,” one of her tormentors said. Then they began to assault the girls.

When the three friends finally managed to escape, the gang chased them down a London street until they took refuge in a store. When she arrived home, the girl’s parents discovered she was bruised, shocked, and traumatized. While making his report to police, the girl’s father said the incident left his daughter frightened and reluctant to go on the bus again.

Such attacks, however, are not the exclusive province of young Jewish Europeans. A devout Muslim college student in her third year at the University of Toronto in Canada has received death threats from fellow Muslims after she expressed support for the State of Israel’s right to exist. “As a result of my pro-Israel views,” she explained, “I received a lot of verbal assaults, and a few death threats on my life.”

Born in Canada, the young woman is a religious Muslim who covers her head with a veil and lives according to the dictates of the Qur’an. She recently returned from a visit to Israel and signed a petition to the United Nations denouncing suicide bombings.

“Being a supporter of the existence of Israel does not conflict with Islam, it complements Islam,” she said. “The Qur’an does not have any verses that do not allow for the Jews to return to the Land of Israel.”

Furthermore, this courageous young Muslim charges that the North American media fail to tell it like it is. The severity of the Palestinian uprising is, in her view, proof that “Yasser Arafat and his followers will do whatever it takes to cause as much bloodshed as is necessary to overtake all of Israel.”

She advocates that pro-Israel Muslims visit Israel to see what it is really like and to equip them with the knowledge to speak out in their communities.

“I love Jews as I love true Muslims,” she says. “Therefore, I believe Jews should have a right to live legitimately in their homeland.” Such candor, expressed in the North American “free speech” zone, has marked this young woman as a target of ridicule and possibly death.

Thus, whether in the dusty towns of Palestinian territory, the clean streets of London, or the halls of higher learning at a university in Canada, the need to refashion civility and common human decency is acute.

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