Sharon’s Stroke
By: Robert Spencer
Monday, December 19, 2005

The Palestinians celebrate – and we are reminded of the world's grotesque double standard.

In Gaza some Palestinians greeted news of Ariel Sharon’s stroke with the “V” for victory sign, gunfire into the air, and pastries.

Schadenfreude is a recurring motif of Palestinian life. Some cheered the 9/11 attacks, passing out candy on that occasion as well. Many Palestinians have celebrated suicide bombings, including even mothers rejoicing in the deaths of their own children. All too many Palestinians seem happy only when an Israeli Jew is dying, even if one of their own children had to die also to make it happen.


Much of this, of course, stems from a culture that celebrates death. As Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri, a Palestinian Authority cleric, stated: “We tell them, in as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and martyrdom.” That is the rationale behind the glorification of suicide bombers as heroes.


Even that glorification and celebration of death, moreover, is rooted in a culture of hatred: suicide bombers are heroes not because they kill themselves but because they kill infidels as well. 9/11 and Sharon’s illness are worth celebrating because they represent more of the same: the defeat and destruction of the enemy.


The culture of death and hatred is not limited to the Palestinians: in Egypt, Sheikh Atiyyah Saqr of Al-Azhar explained in 2004 that “cowardice and love for this worldly life are undisputable traits [of the Jews].” In Lebanon, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah concurred: “We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.” Afghan jihadist Maulana Inyadullah declared: “The Americans lead lavish lives and they are afraid of death. We are not afraid of death. The Americans love Pepsi Cola, we love death.”


In most places on the planet and at most times throughout history one who loves death has been considered at very least unbalanced. And rather than rejoicing in the misfortunes even of their enemies, Americans rebuilt Germany and Japan after World War II. Israelis did not hand our candies when Yasir Arafat died; nor do they cheer the deaths of innocent Palestinians. Personal graciousness between public opponents has for ages been a hallmark of civilization; indeed, even aides to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wished Sharon good health.


The gesture of Abbas’ office notwithstanding, the Palestinian culture of death and hatred casts a shadow over the future of the entire region. The prospects for a negotiated settlement and lasting peace are slim to none when so many on one side so openly and unapologetically hates the other and rejoices in its distress. Yet the international community has generally turned a blind eye. Although deeply concerned about the trumped-up, politically manipulative concept of “Islamophobia,” the United Nations has paid scant attention to the phenomenon of suicide terror — indeed, criticism of suicide bombers has been silenced at the UN in Geneva by Islamic delegates.


This kind of inconsistency demonstrates that world opinion demands a higher moral accountability from the West than it does from the Islamic world. Were Americans or Israelis to hand out pastries and fire guns in the air at the illness or death of a Muslim leader, international opprobrium would be swift and sure — particularly from the Leftist spokesmen who view all conflicts between the Islamic world and the West as having been caused by Western outrages.


There is an unacknowledged layer of ethnocentrism in this. The international media and governing bodies seem to assume that Palestinians and other Muslims are simply not capable of hewing to the moral and civilizational standards to which Westerners are held.


Less is expected of them. American military personnel who commit crimes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are excoriated by world opinion and prosecuted; immensely greater crimes by Muslim terror groups are simply a reaction to Western provocations — witness the post-9/11 remark by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud when he gave ten million dollars to New York City. He asked the U.S. to “reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause….Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.”


Rudolph Giuliani, in returning the Prince’s check, deplored the notion that anything could justify the 9/11 attacks. But the prince’s views are unfortunately widespread in the West (and no one at Georgetown or Harvard seemed to mind when he just gave $20 million to each). No one seems particularly concerned about the fact that by tolerating joy at Sharon’s illness among Palestinians and the culture of death in general, international authorities are postponing, perhaps forever, any chance for so many Palestinians and Muslims to shed their blinders and adopt the moral and ethical standards held by the rest of the world. By continuing to expect less from them, the West ensures that it will receive less from them. As a result, the global conflict, fueled as it is by the hatred that is spread so energetically among Muslims today, will doubtless not only continue to grow, but to escalate.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.