Dear President Obama,
It saddens me that I have to be frank with you, frank and impolite, but our last meeting didn't end peacefully. It's hard to accept the contrast: you bow for an obscene tyrant, you joke around with corrupt Latin-American caudillos, then you insult me — the prime minister of America's best friend, Israel.
May I conclude that your friend Rashid Khalidi has not been talking to you in vain during all those dinners and parties you hosted for each other?
Some geopolitical problems are complicated on the surface, but deeper there is often a simple truth which highly educated left-wing academics like you fail to recognize. The truth of our conflict with the Arabs isn't longer than two dozen words:
Muslims don't accept non-Muslims ruling a piece of land that the Muslims consider sacred Islamic land until the end of times.
Rashid Khalidi has never been this clear with you. He explained to you that the Jews of Israel were hated because of their treatment of Palestinian Muslims. He never exposed to you how the Arab Palestinians are treated in Lebanon, or how other Muslims are being treated by fellow Muslims. Look at the mass slaughter the Muslims of Iraq commit upon each other, or the Muslims in Yemen.
Or maybe Khalidi did talk about it — and he explained to you that the Muslims decapitate each other and blow up women and children because they are so terribly humiliated by the Israeli Jews.
On the cruel list of the most violent conflicts in terms of body count since World War II, the Israeli-Arab conflict stands at number 49. This accounts for 0.06% of all conflict victims since then.
We can't be proud of this — it is awful to be on that list. Our conflict with the Arabs, since 1948, has cost the precious lives of over 50,000 people, including soldiers of both sides.
The civil war in Algeria has cost the lives of over 200,000 people — as precious as the lives in our wars and confrontations with the Muslims. These lives are hardly mentioned by American media, and they are not part of the Rashid Khalidi narrative, which exists as such:
The Arabs are upset about the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli Jews, who are backed by you, and when the Palestinian Arabs have their own country on the West Bank and Gaza, the Arabs will be a bunch of happy campers and start loving America and Osama bin Laden will spend the rest of his life as a barber trimming the colored beards of his Taliban friends in Kandahar.
You were deeply and truly impressed by Khalidi. You spoke at his farewell party in Chicago after Khalidi was appointed Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.
Videos were made of your attendance, but the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a copy, still refuses to make the video public.
We happen to have obtained a copy of that video as well — we have some contacts here and there. It's not a happy sight, you speaking at that event. I understand that you don't want your Israeli friends to watch it, and the editors at the Los Angeles Times are comfortable hiding it from Americans. Don't worry, my lips are sealed. But it is clear that I can't call you a friend of Israel.
Mr. President: let us imagine that next year a Palestinian state is founded. Or two, whatever. A Hamas state and a West Bank state. No Israeli military presence anymore between Tel Aviv and the Jordan River. Eastern Jerusalem is the capital of the West Bank state, without walls, open to the western part. Gaza is the capital of the western Palestinian state. A highway connecting these two states? Why not; throw it in the basket. I am requesting that you imagine this happening, and I am requesting you take full responsibility for it.
Because I can't.
I am interested in one thing and one thing only: security. We Jews have a thing with security. Some nasty things happened recently in our history and in the preceding two thousand years. As a result, we are a bit allergic to danger and we take threats seriously. Hamas states in its founding charter that it wants to destroy the Jews, since the Jews are the eternal enemies of Islam. They are backed by their friends in Lebanon and Tehran, which recently hosted a so-called Holocaust conference regarding whether the Holocaust really happened.
Your friend Rashid Khalidi convinced you that everything will change in the Islamic world when the Palestinians have their own midget state west of the Jordan River and east of Tel Aviv (within three miles of our biggest city). And you bought it.
You really believe that Muslims will be confident and satisfied members of their societies the moment you open an embassy in East Jerusalem, don't you? You really believe that potential suicide bombers will start studying a Scandinavian language, instead of destroying whole families? You really believe that Palestinians will immediately stop firing rockets at Israel the moment the Palestinian flag is atop the Temple Mount? No more improvised explosive devices killing your military heroes in Afghanistan, no Taliban "students" throwing acid in the faces of schoolgirls. Everything changes the moment Palestine is born … you really, truly believe it, don't you?
You really believe that Muslims will love you the moment you bring the Israeli Jews to their knees.
You want me to take the risk that you are wrong. I will not do that.
I cannot accept your experiment. Because I am absolutely convinced that violence will continue, will increase. Your men will be targeted in Iraq and Afghanistan by the same enemies. It is not about us, this misnamed Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is about the core values of the Islamic world.
Our problems with Muslims are not due to our treatment of the Palestinians. The injustices in our country — yes, we have them and we try to combat them — and the territories we control militarily are less grievous than the injustices within the Muslim world. And, surprise, less cruel.
Our conflict is about the big scandal that a little nothing country like Israel can patent more inventions and scientific breakthroughs, year after year, than all Islamic countries combined. We have more Nobel Prize winners than the whole Islamic world. A higher standard of living, more liberties, an independent judiciary. Peaceful transitions of elected politicians.
And you really believe that these great Israeli achievements have come at the price of the Arabs?
We stole their liberties, their independent judiciary, their creativity, their Nobels?
We built our land on dry, barren sand without oil money. The Saudi princes chose to build a medieval state of perverts and hypocrites with their great oil wealth.
This is not about us. It is about the soul of Islam. It is about their lack of curiosity, the lack of critical discussions. The lack of liberal arts, free speech, free scientific research, a revolution of free spirits, women's rights, urban cosmopolitanism — the lack of respect for everything that deviates from the early medieval concepts of Islam.
It is delusional to think that you can solve our problems or create an environment for the Palestinians in which they can transform their society into a modern, open state with a division of powers.
In Gaza, the Palestinians elected an Islamic-fascist party into office. If there were to be elections in the West Bank, they would do the same. The tribal families of the Palestinian territories hate each other as much as they hate us.
You have no clue. You have no idea what the Middle East and the Arab world is about. It is not what Khalidi told you — a conflict with some Jews about a strip of land half the size of Bill Gates' backyard. This is about the decline of an old civilization, Islam, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This is about big things, big historical events with big consequences.
Perhaps our founding fathers made a mistake — it would have been safer to create a new Jewish homeland in Florida. But we have a history here, going back about three millennia, and that weighed quite heavily on the decision. Don't you agree?
You are staring at a map of our tiny country and its bordering areas, and you think that you can find the solution there, and you are mistaken. This is about culture. Tribal traditions. Stories about a prophet who went to visit heaven on a horse, and used Jerusalem as a launch area. The Arabs and Muslims are so obsessed by their medieval aggrandizing worldly claims — legitimized by their religious myths — that they can't live in the present and are afraid of the future. That's why they don't have Nobel Prize winners, no exciting patents, no cutting-edge industries.
It's not about us, sir. It's about them. Please think about it the next time you bow for a Saudi pervert or have me waiting for you in a side room while you have dinner.
Leon de Winter is a novelist and columnist for Elsevier Magazine in the Netherlands. His last novel, The Right of Return is a thriller set in Tel Aviv in 2024. He presently lives in Los Angeles.