November 13, 2023 | Newsweek

I’m Arab and I Don’t Understand Why the World Can’t Acknowledge Jewish Pain

November 13, 2023 | Newsweek

I’m Arab and I Don’t Understand Why the World Can’t Acknowledge Jewish Pain

Many many years ago, I learned Hebrew out of curiosity and in a bid to penetrate into a world that I once thought was evil and conspiring against the Arabs and Muslims. Once in, I was surprised how wrong I was, how wrong almost every Arab and Muslim around me was. Israel was not on a mission to kill us all, was not conspiring against us. Israel wanted to live, and let live. In the Middle East, it’s we, the Arabs, who never seem to let live, even if that means that we die.

These days, I watch both Hebrew networks and Arabic ones. The Israelis are suffering immense pain over the 1,200 of them who Hamas killed in cold blood on 10/7. Survivors are struggling with agony and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of Israel is living in anxiety over the fate of the 240 hostages Hamas took on the day Israelis now call Black Saturday.

In Israeli media, I see a lot of tears for the victims of October 7, now mixed with tears over fallen soldiers fighting in Gaza. The thing about all this Israeli pain is that it is almost exclusively in Hebrew. The world does not see Israelis hurt or hear them cry. All the world sees are Israeli fighter jets raining death on Hamas from 15,000 feet above the ground to punish those who killed Israelis and to free the hostages.

The world does not feel Israeli pain. It only sees and hears Palestinian pain. The world likes to take the side of the underdog, even when the underdog is guilty. Of course, they don’t see it that way. One billion Muslims have a much louder voice than 16 million Jews, making it harder to hear the truth, easier to tell lies. So the world blames Israel, even when Palestinians started the carnage like Hamas did on 10/7.

The Jews understood a long time ago that the world is not a fair place. International justice is erratic and unreliable. This is exactly why the Jews went out of their way to create Jewish sovereignty, to establish a nation state and a government that can protect Jews anywhere on the planet, anytime. Even if the Jews are connected historically, culturally, and emotionally to this biblical land, Zionism has never been just about the land; the early Zionists were open to building their sovereign state elsewhere, though they reasoned that no spot could have attracted as many Jewish immigrants as the land of Israel.

Many Jews died to earn that Israeli sovereignty, and they continue to die for it—even now. Hamas’s 10/7 massacre threatened Israel’s existence, and Israelis are now fighting the fight of their lives—a second War of Independence, as they call it.

But what Israelis think and say remains mostly in Israel, far from global media. It is the Arabs and Muslims who set the global narrative, who have repeatedly turned the Jews’ fight for sovereignty into a fight over real estate: We lived in this land thousands of years before them, therefore we are its rightful sovereigns. But who lived in this land before the advent of the Arabs? In fact, in many countries that we call Arab today, Jews lived and spoke Hebrew, then Aramaic, then Arabic, long before Islam even existed.

Israel must fight for its survival. The only alternative to war is peace. Yet one would be hard pressed to see one sign of peace in the thousands of protests against the war worldwide. Peace will only come when the Arab world recognizes Israel, but the protesters are not shouting for peace; they are shouting against Israel, hoping that a ceasefire can save Hamas.

I wish I had a magic wand to make my fellow Arabs and the rest of the world see what I see. There will never be peace without justice. Using our numbers as Muslims and Arabs to impose our narrative will not beat Israel and it is not the way to peace.

I write this to voice my dissent. I want peace, and peace depends upon winning the trust of those we want to live in peace with, not instigating the world against them. Peace requires admitting the truth. It requires admitting Jewish pain.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow Hussain on X @hahussain.


Arab Politics Israel Israel at War