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November 19, 2019 4:24 pm

Palestinian Extremists Hate the United States — and Not Just Because of Israel

avatar by Harold Brackman


Palestinian police officers loyal to Hamas march during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City, April 29, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

A year before his confirmation to the US Supreme Court in 1916, Louis D. Brandeis affirmed the compatibility of Zionism with American patriotism for “every American Jew who aids in advancing the Jewish settlement in Palestine, though he feels that neither he nor his descendants will ever live there.”

Brandeis’ fusion of Zionism with Americanism was critical in building US support for the creation of the new Jewish state that he did not live to see. Zionists in both Israel and the US easily adopted the American idiom of both countries as “new nations” rooted in Biblical values. After all, the New England Puritans had described their colony as “a New Canaan” or “a New Zion.” And Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, tasked to recommend a national symbol for the nascent American republic, had initially suggested not a bald eagle — but Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea.

Less well known is how the US unintentionally helped spawn hostile Palestinian nationalism. The year was 1948, the same as President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel’s independence. But the event was Sayyid Qutb’s hejira from Egypt to the US.

A then unknown, middle-aged Egyptian school teacher who was still ambivalent about the tensions between secularism and religion, Qutb enrolled in a Colorado teachers’ college for professional training. There, he experienced a culture shock that completed his transformation into a Muslim fundamentalist.

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Qutb blamed the influence of the Americans’ “primitive artistic taste” and “Jazz music … the music that Negroes invented to satisfy their primitive inclinations,” for corrupting religious values and social norms.

Qutb’s infusion of his newly acquired anti-American cultural aversions with his militant doctrine of “offensive” jihad reinvigorated the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, though the regime eventually executed him for subversion. Of course, Qutb also hated Israel.

Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s hatred of Israel found receptive soil in Gaza, where Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was born in a refugee camp. Hamas’ co-founder was Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi (Jaffa-born but growing up in Gaza). Both were assassinated by Israel in 2004 during the bloody Second Intifada.

Hamas’ mouthpiece Al Risala celebrated the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center: “Every time Dick Cheney and his girlfriend Condoleezza Rice … admonish us … they incite more violence. … America, you planted in the hearts of all men … the seedling of hatred of you! You never considered that the day would come when the saplings would grow and put out your eyes … at the top of the World Trade Center.”

Thus, radical Palestinians’ hatred for America isn’t just about Israel. It’s about culture, values, and our shared future.

Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans (Africa World Press, 2015).

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