Israel, Ideology & Lies

FILE - A man teaches Bilal, 11, how to use a toy rocket-propelled grenade in Idlib, northern Syria, March 4, 2012. This image was one in a series of 20 by AP photographers that won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

FILE – A man teaches Bilal, 11, how to use a toy rocket-propelled grenade in Idlib, northern Syria, March 4, 2012. This image was one in a series of 20 by AP photographers that won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

Four years ago I gave an interview on a liberal podcast, NPR. The topic was skepticism in the martial arts, self-defense, and violence. The subjects I usually discuss.

One morning, after the interview, as I scrolled through my newsfeed, I noticed that one of the hosts of the NPR podcast I had appeared on had posted a video featuring what reported to be a young, unarmed, Palestinian man searching for his family. He was said to be pinned down in the rubble by an IDF sniper, and shot.

The whole event was conveniently captured on cell phone video. It made the front page of the UK’s Daily Mail, and sadly, was also picked up for a brief time by Newsweek. You can view the video here: video

I clicked on the video, and within minutes it was more than obvious to me that it was a hoax – the kind of scripted propaganda piece that terrorist organizations like Hamas frequently throw out to a hungry media. It’s a practice so common it has a name, Pallywood.

I cautioned skepticism, explained my reasons – and was met with a barrage of anger. I must be some sort of pro-Israeli fascist! Don’t I care about young, dead, Palestinians?

Within days, the video revealed to be exactly what I thought it was – fake. And it wasn’t even faked well. In one scene you can even see the young actor apply some artificial blood. It had been produced and released by the ‘International Solidarity Movement’; a group that has condoned terrorist acts against civilians. And it starred the very alive actor, Saelm Khalil Shammaly.

This fairly common event (these kind of videos are released all the time), isn’t the interesting part of the story. The more fascinating aspect is what happened after news came out that showed the video to be a hoax. Re-posting the links on the same thread, I was met with derision. I asked the NPR host if, since he had been very active in promoting the video as a real news story, he would now mention that it was in fact a fraud. After all, to not do so, I said, would be dishonest.

His response was as telling as it was sad – “no” he said, “because whether it was fake or not, it’s something Israel would do.”

That short exchange encapsulates everything I find so dangerous about ideology. Right or left, conservative or progressive, libertarian or socialist, when we pick an ideology and assume it as our default template for the world, confirmation bias begins to sink deeper into our souls. Honesty is, after all, the single most important guideline any of us have in terms of ethical political opinion. The moment we jettison honesty, because it doesn’t fit our adopted template, is the moment we lose our integrity. We become part of the problem.

So often when discussing this issue I’ve run into “yes, but ‘they’ do it more.” The defense that is never a defense, adopted as the last refuge of anyone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Aside from the fact that “they do it too” isn’t an argument (unless it seems, you are Donald Trump), we also have to realize that the depth of dishonesty within a particular political affiliation really depends on the issue.

Listening to the Republican debates this year made my stomach turn. Hearing the nominees rant, and believing them, would lead anyone to think that America’s economy was in deep decline, it’s not – our military was falling apart, it isn’t – terrorist threats were being ignored, they haven’t been – and our President ‘hates’ America, he of course doesn’t.

I will also occasionally tune into conservative talk radio, and not everything I hear is untrue. No political party in this Nation is all wrong or all right, and even Rush Limbaugh captures the correct on occasion. But with Rush in particular, I’ll play a game. I will tune in and listen, up until I hear a major, pronounced, clear cut – lie. And by lie I don’t mean a spin on a subject I disagree with, or an opinion I don’t share. I mean a bold faced factual lie. The moment I hear one, I turn him off.

I’ve never been able to play that game and listen to Rush for more than five minutes straight – and I’ve tried.

From the left we get a plethora of equally deleterious bullshit. To hear your typical progressive-leftist-Noam Chomsky-fan speak, is to believe that American cops are actively hunting black people, they aren’t – the American standard of living is in decline, it isn’t – and the US Military is a force for evil in the world – of course it isn’t. And much as it is with the lies on the right, these delusions aren’t just wrong, they tend to be factually backwards.

Why do we do this? Why do we as human beings find it so easy to allow ourselves to be seduced and deceived in equal measure by political demagogues of all persuasions?

That’s a complicated question that admits to multiple answers, like ease, comfort, cognitive dissonance, pride, and ignorance. Long-standing problems tend to be long standing precisely because they are hard to solve. They require thought and education to even understand, let alone fix. But for populist ideologues, they’re easy. If you’re on the knee jerk right and a big fan of Rush Limbaugh, long-standing problems exist because liberals are evil, and seeking to control everyone. If you’re on the knee jerk left and a big fan of Noam Chomsky, long-standing problems exist because capitalism is evil, and seeking to exploit everyone. As a follower of either you can take comfort in knowing you’re on the correct side, and go on with your life without getting much deeper into any of it.

Last year I engaged in a debate via email with someone firmly entrenched in the politics of the left, and I think it is a good example how ideological groupthink can negatively effect our reasoning skills.

The question up for debate was simple: is Islam itself, its teachings and interpretations, responsible in some part, for the Islamic terrorism we see around the world currently.

My answer is yes. My opponent’s answer, Gary, was no. For Gary, the major cause of Islamic terrorism we see around the world wasn’t Islam, it was Israel. Gary would submit his reasons, and I would reply via e-mail. Here is the entirety of the conversation, which as you will see, turned out to be shorter than anticipated.


From Gary:

“The belief that Islam is the root of terrorism doesn’t explain how Western-targeted terrorism coincides with the period post oil being discovered in the Middle East during the 1930-’60s and the establishment of the Jewish state on Arab Palestinian land. Harris (referring to Sam Harris) also ignores the fact that Palestinian Muslims welcomed Zionist Jews in the 19th century. It was only when Jewish settlers began taking their land, and when Jews made it clear they did not wish to share the remaining land, that violence ensued.”


My Reply:

Let’s unpack these claims. Here is the theory in a nutshell. Neo-colonialists created Israel as an outpost of Western imperialist aggression – and this injustice is the main reason behind the Islamic terrorists attacks on western targets. This is a common and popular concept amongst certain apologists for Islamic aggression, as well as Islamic leaders who have always enjoyed blaming the Jews, the Christians, and the West, for their devolution back into the dark ages.

To begin with let’s acknowledge that the west has been responsible for many negative things within the region. A careful reading of the work of Sam Harris shows that he has never discounted any of that. But that isn’t what the quote is disputing. The quote states:

The belief that Islam is the root of terrorism doesn’t explain how Western-targeted terrorism coincides with the period post oil being discovered in the Middle East during the 1930-’60s and the establishment of the Jewish state on Arab Palestinian land.”

If we are interested in the truth here as opposed to simply propping up a particular political agenda, the first question we need to ask is, ‘is that accurate’? And as we go back in history the very clear answer is – no.

Let’s start in the year 632 AD. Before we look to place the actions of Zionists ahead of the cue as central causes to Islamic terrorism and violence, we will need to reflect on a few realities that begin in the 7th century. If we list the current mass killing, maiming, and torture within the Muslim world in places like Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya, China, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen – much of which meets every definition of terrorism that has ever been laid out, from suicide bombings of civilian populations, to beheadings, mutilations, kidnappings, and everything in between, and much of which, if described in detail, betrays a level of brutality that the modern world rarely sees – please take notice of one obvious fact. It has nothing to do with Israel.

What that violence does have everything to do with – is Islam itself. The division between so-called “moderate” Muslims and the Islamic terrorists who see anyone other than them as an enemy, including the western world, is nothing new. To believe it is, you have to forget about more than a thousand years of history. The present Islamic terrorist, which is a carbon copy of past Islamic terrorists, is a result of the split within Islam between Muslims who wish to live in harmony with their neighbors, in the modern case – joining the 21st century, and other followers of Islam who have always wanted the world to be ruled by Islamic sharia law, and who have always believed that eventually there would be just one theocratic government, a caliphate, to rule the world. It is also deeply connected to the strictly religious (Islamic) division that exists between Sunni and Shia Muslims – Muslims who have been brutally killing each other and those around them since the 7th century. Both these schisms within the “faith”, and both these central motives for violent actions, which are indistinguishable from the modern acts of Islamic terrorism we see daily, started long before there was ever an Israel.

Let’s move forward 200 years. Volumes of historical documents exist which testify to the millennium long assault of Islam against the West. Including but not limited to, the centuries-long occupation of Christian Spain, the Balkans, and Greece. The thousands of plundered, desecrated, and destroyed churches and temples. The two million Europeans kidnapped and sold into slavery. The 10 million slaves taken from Africa who were castrated and marched across the Sahara Desert. And a whole host of violent tactics and strategies, which are essentially identical to those used today. After one such battle in Spain, in the year 920, the writer Arib ibn Sa’id, informs us that there were too many heads of slain Christians for the mule-trains to take back to Córdoba. Those heads that did make it were put on stakes around the city walls. Sound familiar?

Yes, Christians were also responsible for a tremendous amount of horror during these same eras. But there is one distinct difference. The Christian/Western world lived through the enlightenment, a renaissance of science and reason – and evolved. Where as Islamic theocracies still chop people’s heads off daily for offences like adultery, or heresy. Modern Islamic groups like ISIS behead their victims and place their heads on fences in the park. Can any of us imagine the current Vatican, as repulsive as it is, marching people out to the square every morning and chopping their heads off?

The point is clear here. Fundamentalist Islam has always had, and continues to have, one major objective – the destruction of all heretical religions (everything but Islam), and the return of the caliphate. With that goal comes the extreme violence, hostage taking, dehumanization of non-Muslims, beheadings, and the rest of the medieval horror show that we now seeing playing out on the world stage. And that goal, as well as its accompanying violent terror, began more than a thousand years before the nation of Israel was ever created.

Now let’s move forward another 800 years, to the 1700’s. When the attacks on the continental West, on America, by Muslim terrorists, actually began. In 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunisia. Muslims were conducting raids against American ships. Thousands of vessels were taken, and more than a million Europeans and Americans sold into slavery. Thomas Jefferson described what he saw as the main reason they were attacking Americans who had done them no harm. To quote:

“We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretensions to make war upon a Nation who had done them no Injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our Friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the law of their prophet, that is was written in their Koran, that all Nations who should have not acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever the could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise.”

That quote should be anything but shocking. The Imams and ruling class of religious leaders have preached hatred towards “the continental West” as far back as the 1700s. Their reasoning is indistinguishable from what you’ll hear spouted by modern Islamic suicide bombers, hijackers, kidnappers and jihadists around the world. If you listen, they’ll gladly explain this in detail, just as the Tunisian ambassador did, 200 years ago.

Now let’s move forward 150 years. Much of today’s modern terrorism can be traced directly back to 1928 with the founding of Ikhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood), by a 22-year old named Hassan al-Banna, a big fan of Adolf Hitler. He was fond of Hitler’s hatred of the Jews and frequently wrote to him expressing his admiration and desire for collaboration with the Nazi Party. al-Banna was known to refer to Jews as “dogs and sub-humans “. His version of Islamic rule wanted to see all secular governments stripped of power, replacing secular laws and constitutions with sharia; and to finally seat Islam in its rightful place as the one authority on everything.

If you read his writings you’ll find the agenda to be identical to most modern Islamic terrorist organizations. In fact most modern Islamic terrorist organizations reference him. The terrorist activity of the militant group became such a problem for Egyptian government that al-Banna was executed. He is widely considered to be a martyr within the modern Islamic world. And this was of course, twenty years prior to the creation of Israel.

Modern terrorists, those who attacked us on September 11, and those who, in between rapes, forced child marriages, dismemberments, and other generally gruesome and repulsive behavior, film videos of themselves sawing off the heads of aid workers, ‘those’ Islamic terrorists, all adhere to the same anti-Semitic hate filled ideology that Arib ibn Sa’id made note of in 920 AD, that Jefferson recognized in the 1700’s, and that al Banna preached in the 1920’s. Their contempt for the West doesn’t revolve primarily around Israel, Western imperialism, or political repression, though no prominent critic of Religion I am aware of, including Sam Harris, discounts any of those factors. Their virile hatred of the West can be traced directly to their hatred of Western ideas, including individualism, tolerance, free speech, capitalism, meritocracy, gender equality, religious pluralism, consensual government, secular law, the Western ideal of personal freedom and other out growths of the European Enlightenment. Their rationalization for their use of violence and the enslavement of everyone not them, remains the same, the Koran. And their stated goal has not changed – it predates Israel, it predates Western imperialism, and it remains committed to a strict interpretation of the Koran and sharia.

We haven’t even touched on the Muslim slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian Christians who were blamed for assisting in Islam’s fall from power. Or the Arab countries who were soundly defeated in the 1967 Six Day War and humiliated at having suffered a loss to a people, the Jews, that many Muslims view as sub human monkeys, an inferior species fit only for genocide.

Returning to the quote, it states: “The belief that Islam is the root of terrorism doesn’t explain how Western-targeted terrorism coincides with the period post oil being discovered in the Middle East during the 1930-’60s and the establishment of the Jewish state on Arab Palestinian land.”

So does Islamic terrorism against the West coincide with the founding of Israel?

As any reading of history shows, it doesn’t. Islam has operated this way for 1400 years. Islamic terrorism is anything but – new.

Why than the hatred, why the disregard within the Islamic world for western life?

That isn’t a great mystery. They will tell you themselves, just as the Tunisian ambassador did over 200 years ago. Theirs is the one true religion. Theirs is the one true “God”. Everyone else, all else, is heresy. Heretics, infidels, and non-believers are fit only for enslavement. And those Muslims who fight that battle, who wage that jihad, rest easy in the belief that their death while engaging in these acts of horrendous violence ensures them a place in heaven, in the Islamic paradise. That ideology hasn’t changed since its founding in 610 AD – long before Israel, long before America, long before the Jews could be blamed. The greatest enemy Muslims have ever faced is the ideology of Islam itself.


Gary’s reply: None.


While the failure to reply may be disappointing, it isn’t at all surprising. It’s a lot easier to adopt a very biased ideologically based opinion, than it is to defend it. After all, only one part of that equation requires effort.