Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Middle East: Where Crazed Extremism is the Average

By Barry Rubin

This is the kind of thing that really characterizes the situation in the Middle East. Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group even more radical than Hamas, held a rally in Gaza City which drew an estimated 100,000 people out of a population of approximately two million.

Since the Gaza population has a number of children far higher than the United States and women’s participation would also be limited, this is equivalent to a rally in the United States of, say, twenty million people.

Of course, this comparison would have to be adjusted for the short distances people would need to travel to participate in a Gaza rally, but the point is valid nonetheless. A demonstration for an extremist group in Gaza can draw something like forty times more than any possible collective activity of this sort might obtain in the United States.

Imagine how many people the Hamas regime might mobilize for a demonstration if it tried. Remember, this rally is in support of a movement that is exclusively terrorist, lacking even the comforting veneer of social welfare programs that lets groups like Hamas fool the most naive Westerners. Islamic Jihad stands for genocide against Jews, the destruction of Israel, no negotiations ever.

Not that Hamas, of course, is any great moderate force. Indeed, Hamas officials spoke at the rally, and often use Islamic Jihad as a cover. Oh, they’d say, we’re observing the ceasefire but we just can’t stop—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—Islamic Jihad from launching those rockets.

Think of the world view held by the participants and the huge number of Hamas and even Fatah supporters regarding how things work, what America is like, what Israel is like, or the most basic concepts of logic and reality held by Westerners. There is an enormous gulf here which will only be bridged many decades from now.

The demonstrators chanted, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” These aren’t metaphors: They mean it. So do Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood groups, and many others. In fact, so do the governments of Iran, Syria, and several more.

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