January 17, 2019

Why I love Lucy

Remember the name Subhi Al-Yaziji, dean of Quranic Studies at the Islamic University of Gaza. As Arab terrorists were attacking Jews in Israel last week, Al-Yaziji went on Palestinian television to cheer them on and remind them to include Jewish women and children. 

“All Jews in Palestine today are fair game — even the women,” he said, according to a video posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “Every single Jew in Palestine is a combatant, even the children. They train their children to use tanks and various kinds of weapons.”

Of course, this is nothing new. We’ve seen so much demonizing of Jews over the years by radical Islamic preachers that we’re pretty numb to it.

But while Al-Yaziji was encouraging the murder of Jews, other Muslim-Arab voices were talking a different game. One of them was Israeli-Arab news personality Lucy Aharish.

“Even if the status quo on the Temple Mount has been broken, does that allow someone to go and murder someone else because of a sacred place?” she said on Israeli television. 

“What God are they speaking of that allows for children to go out and murder innocent people? What woman puts on a hijab and prays to God, takes a knife out and tries to stab innocent people? I don’t understand it, and I don’t justify it in any way.”

Aharish’s blunt criticism of her Arab-Muslim brethren has made her a popular figure in Israel, a country where criticizing your own people is a national pastime.

“The problem with the Arab minority is that it sees itself as a victim,” she told the Washington Post in April. “Yes, there is racism against Arabs in Israel; yes, the Arabs do not get their entire rights. But I am not a victim of Israel; I am a human being and a citizen.”

Al-Yaziji and Aharish represent polar opposites. One wallows in hatred, the other in self-reflection. One acts like a chronic victim, the other takes responsibility. One lives in Gaza and is stuck in the past, the other lives in Israel and looks to the future.

Aharish is fully aware that Israeli Arabs have legitimate grievances, but she responds to grievances with a practical attitude — if there’s something you don’t like, speak up and work to change it.

“If you don’t open the door for me, I will come in through the window, and if it is closed, then down the chimney,” she said in one of her famous quotes. “We were too polite, but we learned Israeli chutzpah. It’s easy to humiliate an Arab who kowtows, but when that person says, ‘Listen, pal, tone it down, don’t talk to me like that,’ you arrive at a dialogue.”

One reason there’s so little hope for peace between Jews and Arabs is that Palestinian leaders loathe the Lucy Aharish model. They’d rather cry about the past than do the hard work of building a future. 

Sometimes I wish Palestinian leadership would adopt the Israeli-Jewish model. After the Holocaust, Jews had every reason to wallow in victimhood. Instead, they chose to move forward. They accepted what the United Nations gave them and built their own state, making lots of mistakes along the way but learning through trial and error. The State of Israel today may be flawed and messy, but at least it’s a “mess in progress.”

Arab-Muslim culture tends to value honor and justice more than action and progress. Because the Arab world perceived the Zionist project as a colonial and criminal enterprise, Israel became an ongoing symbol of injustice and dishonor in Arab culture.

Palestinian leaders could have recognized a parallel Israeli narrative and adjusted to reality for the sake of building a better future. Tragically, they chose the quicksand of resentment and have been stuck in failure mode ever since.

Forget water irrigation and solar technology. Maybe what the Arab world needs to import from Israel is simply a workable attitude that says, “We’re going to argue like hell along the way, but let’s move forward and try to fix problems and make things better.” It is this attitude that has helped make Israel the biggest success story of the Middle East.

Had Palestinians taken an Israeli-style, problem-solving attitude into peace negotiations, they would have had their own state by now. Instead, what they brought to the table was bitterness and lingering resentment. 

Any psychologist will tell you that an addiction to victimhood is a roadmap to failure. Palestinian leaders are the drug dealers of victimhood. By sending them billions over the years and treating their cause like the world’s most important, we in the West have reinforced this self-destructive mindset.

If there’s to be any hope for the future, the next leader of the Palestinians must be unafraid to introduce a new, more forward-looking mindset that will tap into the practical, rather than the cynical, Israeli attitude.

That’s why I hate Subhi and I love Lucy.