How One Arab Changed His Mind about Israel

Like most Lebanese, Hussain Abdul-Hussain came of age believing the Jewish state to be rapacious, expansionist, and a threat to its Arab neighbors. But he became curious to learn more after peeking across the Lebanon-Israel border in 2000. (Free registration required.)

I wanted to know what made Israel stable and prosperous, yet in Lebanon at the time, literature about Israel consisted mainly of anti-Semitic books. I turned to the Internet, scavenging for resources that helped me learn Hebrew. I also found one spot in Beirut—at the westernmost tip of Beirut’s coastline, underneath the New Lighthouse—where my AM radio could receive the signal from Israel’s Reshet Alef channel. I spent hundreds of hours listening, learning, and decoding printouts of the Hebrew press, all in secrecy for fear that doing so would be construed as “normalization with the Zionist enemy.”

I also drove to the border to practice my Hebrew across the barbed wire. Israeli troops were amused that a Lebanese was dabbling in their language, but Hizballah militiamen berated me for “talking to the enemy.” Lebanese law prohibits any dealing with Israelis, including talking to them. I was learning about Israel, but at an agonizingly slow rate.

Yet learn Abdul-Hussain did, especially after he left Lebanon for the West and soon came to find himself sympathizing with Zionism. He now hopes that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states will follow the examples of Bahrain and the UAE and normalize ties with Israel.

Saudi networks have started inviting Israeli pundits on their shows, a practice that remains taboo on most Arab channels. Saudi networks have found it hard to pair Israelis with Arab counterparts, who are usually mindful of laws (or harassment even in countries at peace with Israel) in their home countries that criminalize going on any TV with Israeli guests.

While Riyadh and Jerusalem negotiate, Arab advocates of peace have a crucial role to play. The first step is to defy pervasive shaming by fellow Arabs and come out as proponents of normalization. Their voices can help bring peace talks across the finish line, because fear of a public backlash is precisely what constrains so many Middle Eastern leaders who would prefer to treat Israel as a neighbor, not an enemy.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel-Arab relations, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University