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Arabs must take a long, self-critical look in the mirror

By Emilio Karim Dabul

Monday, April 7th 2008, 4:00 AM


There was a time centuries ago in Arab countries when intellectual introspection was common and the culture produced searching, self-critical scholarship in various arenas.

That time is gone. Today, brave and questioning souls like Irshad Manji, who calls for an Islamic Reformation, receive death threats. Without the ability to look inward, Arab blame for problems is projected outward - meaning, at Israel and the U.S. That is very dangerous for the world.

As an Arab-American, recent events have reminded me in very stark terms why introspection needs to return to the Arab world in a big way, as quickly as possible, as a prerequisite for anything resembling peace, in the Middle East or elsewhere, to be a real possibility.

First, look at what Fatah just attempted to do regarding American victims of Palestinian terrorism. Because of the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, numerous lawsuits have been brought against Fatah and other Palestinian terrorist groups that have injured or killed Americans while in Israel. Recently, the State Department decided it might intervene in some of these judgments, which had found in favor of the defendants and held Fatah and other Palestinian groups liable for millions of dollars in damages, because Fatah had complained that these judgments would bankrupt them and that this in turn would hurt the peace process.

Yes, you heard right. Fatah complained that they were being held financially liable for injuring and killing Americans in Israel, acts for which they had previously claimed responsibility!

And our own State Department wanted to support them in this complaint, supposedly in the interest of peace, by having these judgments nullified. Joseph Heller, the author of "Catch 22," couldn't have come up with a more surreal scenario.

Fortunately, advocates like the Endowment for Middle East Truth, made noise, and as a result of that pressure, the State Department has backed down for now.

But where is the proper sense of shame that might stop a group like Fatah from lodging such a complaint to begin with?

The only explanation is that by having such a pathological, externally focused sense of blame, aimed exclusively at Americans and Jews, no such sense of reasoning or decency applies.

The recent massacre of the Yeshiva students in Jerusalem by a Palestinian Muslim fits the same pattern. Gaza celebrated - yes, celebrated - the cold-blooded and ethnically motivated murders of these religious students, most of whom were teenagers.

Why are we, as Arabs and Arab-Americans, not lining the streets in Ramallah and all the way to New York to decry this sort of barbarism?

Let me say unequivocally that I am ashamed. And I am angry. Nothing, nothing in the world justifies these sorts of actions. Tell me, when have you ever heard of Israelis celebrating the killing of Palestinians?

Yes, there are a few glimmers of progress. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has issued a call for interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. And The New York Times actually called Hamas out on its murderous, anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But these are drops in the bucket, not a rising tide.

The centuries-old downward spiral of tyranny, poverty, fanaticism and finger-pointing is the rule, not the exception in most Arab countries.

At this point in Arab history, we must finally renounce these fatally flawed tendencies to blame everyone but ourselves. As Arab-Americans, we must lead the way, away from groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations - which consistently claims big, bad America is the oppressor and poor Arabs are almost always the hapless victims.

Let us begin anew the path toward our own glorious Renaissance abandoned long ago, and pursue the higher road that will be ours when we finally look more deeply and critically at ourselves.

Dabul is a novelist and commentator on Middle East issues.


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lionel j Apr 7, 2008 5:27:29 AM Report Offensive Post
As an American AND a *** (Mr. Dabul's distinction), I congratulate him on his column, calling for self-examination in the Arab world. I hope this message has been delivered at the same time, in Arabic, to the affected parties. Somehow I doubt that the NY Daily News enjoys great readership in the Mideast. As a ***, and an American--that separation again--I believe that there is no future for Israel as a Jewish State. Israel exists as a makeshift response to the Holocaust. After WWII there were millions of Jewish refugees with no homeland to return to--live among your families' butchers in germany, Poland, etc.? It's time to move on, away from the new slaughter. Canada sounds right to me.

lionel j Apr 7, 2008 5:29:14 AM Report Offensive Post
When did *** become an offensive word? Please reread the column I was commenting on.

poopschmere Apr 7, 2008 6:56:08 AM Report Offensive Post
So, Mort Zuckerman is a 3 asteric. Editing is rediculous on this page. Could Dabal be starting a new dawn in murderers land?

bikerrich1 Apr 7, 2008 8:24:50 AM Report Offensive Post
the problem: terminal money disease. so much of our money, they don't even know what to spend it on. ELECTRIC VEHICLES, let the arabs drown in their oil. they were no good at the time of abraham, they're still no good.

ChrisLA08 Apr 7, 2008 11:11:59 AM Report Offensive Post
So what excuses did Arabs use BEFORE the Israel, the US, and Imperialism existed? Recently, I was able to obtain a copy of George Sale's 1734 translation of the Quran. (This is the same version of Quran that Congressman Keith Ellison recently used to swear his oath of office.) The 145 page introduction is a treasure o f insight into the Middle East before all the contemporary Arab excuses flourished. Sale states quite boldly that Muhammad is an Impostor and that he personally wrote the Quran with a little help from some close associates. (I wonder if Ellison realized he swore on that statement!) Regarding the reason for Arab problems, here is what the British scholar and historian had to say: The frequent robberies committed by these people on merchants and travelers have rendered the name of an Arab almost infamous in Europe; this they are sensible of, and endeavour to excuse themselves by alleging the hard usage of their father Ismael, who, being turned out of doors by Abr

ChrisLA08 Apr 7, 2008 11:15:05 AM Report Offensive Post
(Continued . . ) endeavour to excuse themselves by alleging the hard usage of their father Ismael, who, being turned out of doors by Abraham, had the open plains and deserts given him by God for his patrimony, with permission to take whatever he could find there; and on this account they think they may, with a safe conscience, indemnify themselves as well as they can, not only on the posterity of Isaac, but also on everybody else, always supposing a sort of kindred between themselves and those they plunder. And in relating their adventures of this kind, they think it sufficient to change the expression, and instead of "I robbed a man of such and such a thing," to say, "I gained it." (page 24) The excuses must stop!

ocsinpocsin Apr 7, 2008 11:45:50 AM Report Offensive Post
Emilio Karim Dabul: God Bless You. I hope you are just a beginning.

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