Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2001 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Hearing From
The Arab Street

By Zev Chafetz -- STATE DEPARTMENT wisdom holds that America's "fragile coalition" against terror can only be maintained by pacifying the Arab street.

Which raises the question: What is the Arab street?

You don't need a spy or a retired ambassador to figure this out. You can see the Arab street for yourself on TV. It looks a lot like the crowd at a World Wrestling Federation bout - an incited rabble, screaming for blood. And like the WWF, its brightest stars are villains. Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Khadafy are heroes to the Arab street. The Taliban are idols. Osama Bin Laden is Elvis.

The street respects only power. Brutal tyrants like Khadafy and Saddam, the Assad family of Syria and the royal family of Saudi Arabia have ruled it for generations with little opposition. Compromisers, like Egypt's President Anwar Sadat, die. From North Africa to Pakistan, the street can smell weakness.

In the code of the Arab street, Sept. 11 required a fearsome and immediate response. A serious superpower would have already gone after the men (and the men behind the men) who turned downtown New York into a mass grave. Instead, the United States has praised Islam and dropped more food on Afghanistan than bombs. Far from evoking admiration, this restraint has given rise to derision from one end of the Arab street to the other. Often it takes the form of mocking questions.

Bin Laden and Saddam and the mullahs are right - the United States is soft and too cowardly to fight. We've seen it coming. Remember how the Americans ran from the Vietnamese, how their famous Special Forces failed to rescue the hostages in Tehran, how the Marines fled Beirut? Remember how Bush's father and the great Powell himself left Saddam in Baghdad with his bombs and his poisons? And how the mighty Rangers they brag about on CNN were dragged through the streets of Somalia and then fled the country like women?

Surely, nothing will make the infidels defend themselves. Their cities burn, their buildings collapse, their leaders flee from the seat of government, their children quake in fear - and still they have a million excuses. Ramadan is coming. Then it will be winter. There will be too many casualties. The war is taking place in secret. There must be a stable government in Kabul.

They even say they are afraid of the Arab street - fearful of arousing our hatred. What lies these Crusaders tell themselves! What could they possibly do to make us hate them more than we already do? Of course we hate them. We just no longer fear them.

Zev Chafetz is a columnist for the New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, The New York Daily News. Usage by permission of the author<