Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2001 / 29 Tishrei 5762

Lewis A. Fein

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Guilt and Indifference in the Arab World -- In America's war on terror, should the public accept a distinction between governments that sponsor terrorism and citizens within those nations? For President Bush would have us believe, and the media eagerly recite the maxim, that there is a moral difference between the two. Yet few people apply the same standard - that only repressive governments are evil, not the citizens themselves who swear allegiance to the same - to, say, Nazi Germany. But, notwithstanding those people with the courage or money to abandon tyranny for freedom, the majority of Muslims within these countries either endorse or ignore their governments' wrongdoing.

So, why should people care what a large swath of Syrian or Iraqi Muslims think? Because if and when the leadership within Damascus or Baghdad changes, the policies of these nations (and the attitudes of their citizenry) will remain the same. Either these nations will maintain their hatred of Israel, or, denied their status as innocent knaves, the citizens of these countries will repeat what they have always done in Islam's war against Zionism: nothing.

It is this indifference that allows evil to triumph. When good men do nothing, or ordinary people countenance extraordinary evil, the lie of innocence forever dies - that citizens neither choose nor endorse governmental policy. For, what citizens do not or cannot politically perform, they can individually choose: to leave or rebel against an illegitimate regime. Instead, it is the deafening silence of Muslims throughout the Middle East that suggests otherwise, that the "innocents" of Islamist oppression support, among other things, war against Israel.

This silence is also a war against truth and historical accuracy. Should the Arab states ever successfully destroy or permanently weaken Israel, one of two lies will inevitably follow: that citizens within these states are not guilty of the wholesale slaughter and expulsion of Israeli Jews; or, that Muslim citizens bear no responsibility (though their silence is a form of complicity) for what they themselves did not democratically choose, the murder of Israeli Jewry.

The above argument is anti-Semitism's principal source of international asylum, that the many (Arab Muslims) do not bear responsibility for the crimes of the few (Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda). By this twisted logic, the defenders of freedom should neither ask nor answer the obvious: What did Muslims say or do as Arab countries warred against Israel and the United States? This question is history's summons to all decent and honorable people, before lies and anti-Zionist propaganda murder the truth.

Make no mistake, the death of truth is subtle but permanent. Few things cause greater shame than truth, the kind that explodes the myth of every Frenchmen having joined the Resistance against Hitler's puppet government or Arab Muslim outrage at the events of last September. Indeed, it is the truth that damns cowardice, whether it speaks with a French, Arabic or even an American accent.

Decades hence, the world will commemorate and historians will analyze the acts of last September. Will Arab Muslims that obscenely celebrated these attacks morph into heroes, men that braved smoke and fire to rescue Americans in New York City? Put another way, will there emerge a Muslim Kurt Waldheim - a person with such an ignoble past that only grander and more magnificent lies of heroism can suppress his former wrongs? Will Arab Muslims deny the undeniable?

Indifference or silence does not excuse evil. In fact, indifference makes evil permissible. Indifference protects anti-Israel hatred and anti-Western violence. Indifference breeds historical ignorance and national excuses. Indifference is a collective sin.

Indifference is the crime of the Arab Muslim world.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein