As the Israeli military stomps Palestinian gunmen and levels their lairs, the chorus of voices chanting “restraint!” has unfortunately been joined by the Bush administration, albeit with less gusto than the Europeans.

But its detractors notwithstanding, Israel is doing what a free nation’s government is supposed to do when its citizens’ lives are threatened with force: it’s responding with force.

While Israel’s retaliations aren’t aimed at non-combatants, Arafat’s quasi-governmental Palestinian Authority (PA), by contrast, actually lauds terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, attacks whose ultimate purpose allegedly is to deliver Palestinians their “rights.”

But while suit-and-tie sporting PA spokesmen appearing on TV and talking up Palestinian “freedom fighters” may woo some Westerners, the fact is that far too many Palestinians, steeped in religion, scorn the very concept of individual liberty.

It is precisely because of the Arab world’s animosity toward individual rights and adherence to religious dogma, that an Arab living in Israel is much freer than he would be living in an Arab country.

For example, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel guarantees Arab residents “full and equal citizenship and due representation.”[1] Peaceful Arabs living in Israel are free to work, own property, speak their minds, practice any religion, and, as citizens, to join or start a political party and even hold office. In fact, several current Knesset members are or were activists in nonviolent pro-Arab organizations. [2]

Do such winds of freedom blow in neighboring Egypt, whose constitution is shaped by Islamic jurisprudence? Just ask university professor Nasr Abu Zeid, whose 12 books were banned and who, on August 5, 1996, was told by Egypt’s highest court that as an “apostate from Islam” he must divorce his wife. [3] (The Zeids chose exile instead.)

Can a Palestinian living in Jordan, say, practice Buddhism or be an atheist? Well, he’d better step gingerly, because Article 2 of Jordan’s constitution makes Islam the state religion. And while Article 15 grants that “every Jordanian shall be free to express his opinion,” it ends “provided that such does not violate the law” [4] – which is a loophole big enough for the government to ride a camel through.

But the cultural divide between Israel and its neighbors runs deeper than one or two freedoms. The fundamental difference lies in the Israelis’ general respect for man’s life and radical Palestinians’ virtual worship of death – a difference that area Muslim leaders loudly proclaim.

Sheik Ikrima Sabri, leading clergyman of the PA, just days before June 2001’s Tel-Aviv suicide bombing, said in a televised sermon, “The Muslim loves death and martyrdom, just as [the Jews] love life. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death [and seeks] Martyrdom.” [5]

Similarly glorifying martyrdom was Chief Mufti of the PA’s Police Forces: “From the moment the first drop of his blood is spilled, [

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Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn writes about political and cultural events from an Objectivist perspective.

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