During the Cold War, we were often invited to see ourselves and our adversaries, the communists, as two "super-powers" vying for world hegemony.
We were, in the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer, just "two scorpions in a bottle." If they had a gulag archipelago teeming with political prisoners, we had political prisoners, too (so said former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young). And if they shot down civilian airliners, well, we had racial injustice and poverty.
Such talk demoralized many Americans, and it is now back for a return engagement -- actually it's been evident for some time -- with regard to Israel.
Some American observers of the Middle East and some Israelis, too, adopt a lofty distaste for the conflict and lay blame on "both sides." Thus, former Sen. George Mitchell's report on the Al-Aqsa Intifada notes mildly that "both sides expressed concern about hateful language and images emanating from the other."
Such moral equivalence amounts to falsehood. There is absolutely no comparison between Israeli sentiments toward the Arabs and Arab attitudes toward the Jews and Israel. While Israeli textbooks have been modified in the last decade to reflect a respectful view of the Palestinians' version of the conflict (many friends of Israel actually think this rendition is false), the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world have become, if anything, even more hysterical in their incitement to hatred.
Palestinian children are taught that Jews and Israelis are in league with Satan, that they are injecting the AIDS virus into Palestinian children, that they are monkeys, pigs and Nazis (a favorite Arab accusation), and more.
But when they are not accusing the Israelis of being Nazis, they are thanking Hitler. In the government-sponsored Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, columnist Ahmad Ragab wrote: "Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance, against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth. Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge on them was not enough" (reported in www.memri.org). The song leading the pop charts in Cairo right now is "I hate Israel." It is inconceivable that Israeli radio stations would broadcast a Hebrew song called "I hate Arabs."
The daily diet of hateful propaganda has had its intended effect. The Palestinian Arabs are so filled with hatred of Israelis that when they get their hands on one, they are utterly savage. Six months ago, two Israeli reservists took a wrong turn in the West Bank and wound up at the post office in an Arab village. The mob stormed the place and lynched both men, throwing their bodies out the window for further mutilation.
Last week, two Israeli children, ages 13 and 14, skipped school and went hiking in the desert. When they did not return for baseball practice, the community began to worry. When they did not return at sundown, search parties fanned out. They searched until 5:30 a.m., when their bodies were found. They were in a cave. Each boy had a rock the size of a computer on his head. The cave was splattered with blood and mud. The boys' bodies had multiple stab wounds. Their faces were mere pulp. Dental records were required to establish their identity. It's obvious that the children were tortured before they were killed.
Well, say the moral equivalence peddlers, didn't an Israeli mortar round kill a 4-month-old Palestinian child? Yes. But there is a world of difference between the accidental killing of anyone, even a child, and the intentional, brutal, face-to-face murder of innocents.
The Palestinian authorities have so dehumanized the Jews that they do not believe any Jew is innocent. Not the smallest baby (a Palestinian sniper killed 11-month-old Shalhevet Pass recently). Again, Palestinian teen-agers have been killed while attacking Israeli soldiers with rocks. But, 1) rocks can kill; and 2) the Palestinian youths are often shooting guns, as well. (A few brave Arab critics have questioned the use of Palestinian children as cannon fodder.)
After years of vicious propaganda, the Nazis were able to find willing participants in the murder of 1.5 million Jewish children and babies, along with 4.5 adults. They did not believe any Jew was innocent, either.