(This article is excerpted from a longer essay written nearly fifty years ago, in 1955, a year before his death, by Azriel Carlebach, the founder and editor of the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, and later of the daily Maariv.)
The basic error in our approach to Muslims stems from provincial thinking. The ignorant fashion in which a majority of political leaders see other nations in their own image overrides the truth that cries to the heavens from the world of Islam for over a thousand years. This simple truth is that between the world of Islam and the world of the West there was not and will not be any understanding.
I am not referring to the religion of Islam as such, but to the influence of Islam on social life, on the sense of the world of its believers and their relations with other people. Fifty and sixty generations have been trained to violate that aspect of human nature which seeks to defend the rights of the individual. Muslims do not desire a better world. The concept of historical progress does not exist in Islam. This discourages innovation and initiative. One does not concern oneself with asking why things are as they are. One does not try to improve things. One does not seek to go beyond the words of Allah. To follow those words is to create a righteous world. Its arbiters are the commentators, the interpreters, the mullahs who are as full of citations as a pomegranate is of seeds.
If Islamic countries are rich in natural resources but poor in standard of living, it is not because they lacked the means of development. The motives that push the Western individual to produce more were strangled in the heart of Islamic man. For two or three hundred years Western culture defended itself. But in the last generations Europeans grew tired and were lulled in a fatal error--to see Muslim man in their own image. By now hundreds of millions of Muslims have established themselves throughout the world.
The danger to the West lies in the psychology of Muslims who live in a world of fantasies and have paroxysms of inferiority and dreams of greatness. They are propelled by visions of a holy sword that sees what is intrinsic to Western culture as antithetical to Islam. The danger of Islam for the West is vastly greater than that posed by Communism which shares much more of the rational thought processes of the West.
All this should be understood throughout the West. But this recognition of the nature of Islam does not exist anywhere, not even among us in Israel. One can forgive the ignorant people in the U.S. State Department but our error is inexcusable. We are obliged by our existential situation to know, yet we continue to blind ourselves. If we help the world draw a picture of the Arabs as we would wish them to be, not as they are, we compound our unforgiveable stupidity. We falsify the picture and reduce the conflict between ourselves and the Arabs to a matter of borders. We tell ourselves that the conflict with the Arabs is really political. Then we present rational arguments which are comprehensible to Europeans. The Arabs also present their position with arguments acceptable to the Western mind. But the truth is, as we must know, that this is not an ordinary political dispute, and if there were no refugees and we had not conquered territory, they would oppose us with exactly the same force and determination.
Above everything we sin to the world and ourselves with our inability to grasp the nature of the conflict. Dozens or even hundreds of victims killed on our borders are a calamity for us. But they are not a disaster for the nations of the world. Most of the world's statesmen in the majority of the world's capitals can still sleep peacefully. We are partly at fault tor not attempting to raise awareness of the approaching global devastation of which we are merely marginal accidental victims. Failing to even make the effort to convey to the free world this information, we may fall the first victim.
from "You Can't Come To An Understanding" by Azriel Carlebach.
The above is translated and excerpted from Nativ, which reprinted Carlebach's article in its January 2002 issue.