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Why Do We Hate Them?

By Anis Hamadeh

20 March, 2011

There are far more than 100.000 Google entries for "Why do they hate us?". This question has engaged US Americans since 9/11 and Noam Chomsky provided some sound answers in a video shown on Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pfcW0_sSuw). "Why do they hate us" gained new momentum with the beginning of the Arab Revolution, as certain discrepancies became transparent concerning our Western attitude towards Arab countries. Yet the hate question is of special significance for another reason, too, one that goes almost unnoticed: it reflects the discourse of the ruling in which hate is a sentiment exclusively reserved for the antagonist, i.e. the enemy. The underlying deeper question is: why do we hate them?

In the original German version of the article at hand, - published by the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (www.nrhz.de) on March 16 -, mention is made of Otto von Bismarck and his strategy of unifying the Germans by providing a common enemy to them - France. Later, Adolf Hitler continued the strategy and introduced a new object of hatred to establish a strong in-group feeling among his fellow countrymen, namely the Jews. Anti-Semitism was, in fact, a traditional European idea that came up in the time of the crusades. The Nazis carried it to extremes, and added the communists, the Sinti and Roma, free artists, homosexuals and genetically deviant people. All those were permissible to be hated. In this way, the Germans developed their national identity: 'we are not them'.

'Enemy thinking', both as a method and as an unconscious habit has severe negative effects on one's own society and on others, as it uses the notion of "we against them" to build an in-group feeling, a strong We.

Unfortunately, the story of hate continued even after the nightmare of World War II, and not only in Germany. As soon as the Nazi enemy was overcome, communism took its place, defining a new supra-national entity: the West or the "free world".

The issue of 'enemy thinking' did not reach the top of the school curricula, and politicians and media would not refrain from institutionalizing it. Of course, this behavior can also be found in non-Western societies, but this fact does not redeem our own behavior for which we are fully responsible. A bank robber will hardly convince a judge by asserting that there are far worse bank robbers around in other areas of the planet.

But what about 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union disappeared? People had discarded enemy thinking by then, abolished the NATO, and had gone back to reason, hadn't they? Not at all. It was not long until a new enemy was found, another dormant one, saved for a rainy day. Because we got hooked on the 'enemy', like a heroin addict gets hooked on the drug.

Similar to the case of anti-Semitism, the enmity toward the current antagonist, Islam and the Orient, has historical roots as reference points. And like in Nazi ideology, we have additional secondary enemies: this or that dictator, China, some internal suspects etc. Yet, after 9/11 (with all its open questions), the "free world" has zeroed in on Islam, covering the respective Arab and Muslim countries with wars of aggression (as opposed to defensive wars) and with threats, while Muslims in our own Western societies are being "critically" eyed.

So why do we hate them? Because, without an enemy we hardly have an identity. It is an expression of decadence by societies that persistently refuse to learn from history. The peak is reached with the phantasm of a "Christian Jewish tradition", a new fashionable term in the German discourse, probably not restricted to Germany. It is a kind of trick to get the former enemy into the boat against his successor. The context was understood even by the Central Council of the Jews in Germany, an institution that is not generally regarded as being progressive and one that much too often has appeared as an apologist for the state of Israel, a state seemingly obsessed by the use of violence.

In January 2011, CCJG Vice President Salomon Korn said in an interview that the emphasis on "Christian Jewish roots of the Occident" might be agenda-motivated, in the sense of integrating the Jews in a common front-line against Muslims. Such "embraces" should be regarded with caution, according to Korn. Another trick is to regard the genocide of the Jews as unique in a way that it leaves the historical frame, becoming an incomparable act, so that we cannot remotely be in danger of committing such a crime ourselves. What we do in our war zones could never be so cruel.

But do we really hate Islam so much? Is it not an exaggeration? Some insignificant or casual remarks on Fox News, CNN, and in the mainstream media? This won't make the world stop, will it? Isn't it rather like in sports? Be a sport! - The thing is that "Islam" and "Arabs" are only on-the-surface issues. It really is about the eternal and inevitable enemy that we create and maintain - and kill. We need him, because we have no identity without him.

Take Iran, a country that is targeted and threatened by us. Is it because of the bomb that Iran does not possess while Israel possesses it? Or is it because "they hate us"? In 1953, the CIA was instrumental in toppling Prime Minister Mossadegh and supporting the Pahlevi reign until the theocratic revolution which - closing the circle - has been serving as a convenient setting for Western enemy thinking ever since. And why has the USA to mess around in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a long trail of blood? Is it not an addiction? An obsession?

Of course, not everybody subscribes to enemy thinking. Even the mainstream media at times broadcasts and publishes sophisticated and fair contributions within its limits. So there is hope. Yet the problem remains: we hate systematically, up to killing. Today we lead and support wars of aggression, jettison our own values and fail to adequately acknowledge our responsibility. Even after Hitler. This is the real issue. We call it "freedom", but it is not freedom. Free are those who are sensitized, who know the value of life and who do not need an enemy. Those who recognize self-realization to be the meaning of life, the pursuit of happiness. Those who understand that art has a meaning and that culture enriches the world. Those who have a self-identity and are proud of it.

It is a long way there, still. For the schools, the parental homes, the cliques, the media, the political parties, and the corporations.

In Egypt, tens of millions of people stood up for change. We can learn a lesson from that.

Anis Hamadeh is a German artist with Arab roots, MA in Islamic Studies, author of "Islam für Kids" (345 pp, in German), website: www.anis-online.de/index_engl.htm




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