What Do Muslim Nations Think about Terrorists?

Both before and after the terrorist attacks on our country in 2001, we have been assured that Islam is a religion of peace, that most Muslims don't identify with the terrorists, and indeed that most do not wish us ill. This conviction has driven our war on terrorism -- we have continued to shower money on Egypt and Jordan (two countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel), continued to massively assist the Arab population of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank), and continued to insist that terrorists must be marginalized while Muslim populations generally are placated.  But is our confidence in the good faith (pun intended) of these populations merited?  If not, should our foreign policy be adjusted?

A recently published study of attitudes toward the Iranian-funded terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah by the Pew Global Attitudes Project is most instructive in this regard. The study included 25 nations from around the world, with a special emphasis on Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey, as well as the Palestinian territories and the Muslim minorities in Nigeria and Israel. 

First, the good news. Turks do condemn terrorism -- and this augurs well for continued good relations with the West (including Israel), notwithstanding Ankara's increasingly Islamist government. Just 5% of Turks have a positive view of Hamas, and only 3% like Hezbollah.  Less good news involves the only Middle Eastern Arabic population living in a vibrant democracy -- I refer of course to the Arab minority in Israel. Twenty-one percent of Israel's Arab population supports Hamas, while 27% support Hezbollah. Though this number is distressingly high, it does indicate that a substantial majority of Israel's Arab citizens clearly understands the benefits of being governed by the rule of law, exactly as we have been assured. Finally, Muslims in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria were largely unable to offer an opinion about the two middle-Eastern terrorist groups. 

Alas, that's the end of the good news. Arabs outside Israel have very benign views of these terrorists. Fully 52% of Egyptians support Hamas, the vile group that has taken over Gaza and that is dedicated to the eradication of Israel. Even worse, 56% of Jordanians support Hamas. Fifty-one percent of Jordanians (though only 43% of Egyptians) have a similarly positive view of Hezbollah. These two countries are Israel's "friendliest" neighbors. How confident can Israel be about its relations with countries the majority of whose populations fondly support its genocidal enemy? As for Lebanon, almost all (97%) of its Shiite Muslim population supports Hezbollah, which is of course the de facto totalitarian government in South Lebanon, where the Shiites live. (Only 18% of Lebanese Christians and 2% of its Sunni Muslims are fans of Hezbollah.)

What about Palestinians living in areas controlled by the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority?  Not surprisingly, "only" 44% claim to support Hamas, which is Fatah's sworn enemy. This figure should be of little solace to the West for two reasons. First, public support at 44% is a very high figure, given the P.A.'s attempts to repress (often ruthlessly) Hamas in the territories. Second, Fatah itself is (contrary to Western self-delusions) a totalitarian entity dedicated to Israel's destruction. Rafik Natsheh, an influential member of Fatah's Central Committee, recently stated that "Fatah does not recognize Israel's right to exist, nor have we ever asked others to do so." When asked in the same interview about the possibility of Fatah's deleting the reference to armed struggle with Israel from its founding charter, Mr. Natsheh responded, "Let all the collaborators [with Israel] and those who are deluding themselves hear that this will never happen." (Emphasis added.) As regards Hezbollah, fully 61% of Palestinians voiced support for this group. Seventy-one percent voiced support for Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who has declared, apropos Middle East peace, that "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel." Finally, fully 51% of Palestinian Arabs (a much greater percentage than in any other Muslim region polled) voiced support for Osama bin Laden.

Recent declarations by Secretary of State Clinton seem to acknowledge, at long last, the existential threat posed by Iran to world peace and to American security. But until high-level diplomats such as Ms. Clinton and George Mitchell acknowledge that the populations of "friendly" Arab nations are in fact inimical to peace, they will continue to place pressure in all the wrong places.

Michael I. Krauss is Professor of Law at George Mason University, and is on leave this year as James Madison Fellow at Princeton University.
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