Why do they hate us?

Ahmed Mustafa
Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

The West’s apparently unconditional support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine helps explain the sometimes poor relations between East and West, writes Ahmed Mustafa


The question in the title of this article was asked by many Americans after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 and later by many others in the West more generally. The “they” in the question refers to Arabs and Muslims, or those who present themselves as such, and leads back to the prism through which many Americans and Westerners see the world, in other words that of race and religion.

In order to avoid generalisations, one should avoid painting the West with the single brush of racism and Islamophobia. Otherwise, we risk falling into the same kind of thinking that has encouraged some in Israel to imagine that any criticism of their country’s crimes constitutes antisemitism.

However, Western culture, which has been inherited by the US and former British colonies like Australia and Canada, retains such characteristics. These may manifest themselves more pronouncedly every now and then, with the latest major iteration coming in the form of fascism in the last century.

Part of the shock that led to the question “why do they hate us” more than two decades ago came from the perception that some Americans have that their country is immune to attack as it is a “force for good” in the world. But regardless of the later conspiracy theories and doubts about the official narrative of the 9/11 attacks, those who attacked the US in 2001 were Western-made terrorists: Al-Qaeda, like the Taliban Movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was originally created by US intelligence to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

These groups then turned against their sponsors in the West and in the Gulf or the rest of the Arab or Muslim world.

Even setting aside these historical facts and taking the question out of context, the point still stands. For the US and Western elites, “they” hate our way of life and want to destroy it. But this is simply demagoguery. Many in the Arab and Muslim world love the US and the West and embrace its values and measure themselves against it. Even if they oppose some US and Western policies on regional issues, they still see the West as a whole as a haven of freedom and justice.

Thousands of articles, hundreds of books, and as many conferences and seminars over the past 20 years have debated the question and come up with a wide range of explanations and provisional answers. Very few have touched on US and Western policies in the Middle East, however, especially the West’s apparently unconditional support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its crimes that often amount to ethnic cleansing.

Of course, to say this is not to justify attacks on civilians in New York, Washington, or anywhere else for that matter. But it does explain the context of the “hate” referred to in the question. It would be a mistake not to trace this back to the development of oppressive policies. But one doubts that the majority in US and the West gets this.

For almost seven months, we have been witnessing daily massacres of the Palestinian people by a Western-originated and supported Apartheid system of occupation. The US, UK, and much of the rest of the West have not only been condoning these crimes against humanity but also supporting them with arms and money. Moreover, the West has been dropping its self-proclaimed principles of objectivity and the respect for human rights in order to censor anyone daring to call for a truce or an end to the war on Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has killed tens of thousands of innocent children, women, and the elderly, all the while using US and Western bombs and other lethal weaponry.

Therefore, people in our region have the right to ask the same question: why do they hate us? The leaders of the occupation hail originally from Eastern and Central Europe, which means that the Palestinians are facing the terrorist brutality of people from the West through such figureheads. The question of why they hate us, to the extent of attempting our extermination, would thus have more merit than the same question asked in the US. However, we are not asking it.

We know where “they” come from, and it is not only “us” that are their targets, but also many other groups and peoples. Neo-Nazis have recently re-emerged in Europe, parroting Hitler’s slogan of Aryan supremacy over other peoples. This same mentality has been adopted by the Zionists, some of whom also claim that the “Goyim” are less than human. That is why much of the rest of the world, especially the US and the West, was apparently unperturbed by Israel’s Polish-Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant describing the Palestinians as “animals.”

These are not unique or fringe opinions but are part of a way of looking at others as inferior depending on the manufactured social stereotypes of the time. At present we are witnessing a new wave of extremist white supremacist movements in Europe and the US, where discriminatory and racist views have been rising to prominence. Other areas have also witnessed a reactionary wave, notably the Indian Subcontinent under the rule of its ultra-nationalist ruling party. In other parts of Asia, there have been discriminatory attitudes towards the Chinese, and in China itself there is sometimes a subtle disdain for others.

The world appears to be heading to a climax of indifference to extreme and racist trends. This level of desensitisation has been partially responsible for the continuation of the crimes against humanity taking place in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine.

Of course, those who originally asked the question above at the turn of the century will struggle to hear the same question being asked back by us. For them, too often there is only one real “us” locked in some kind of combat with “them.”


The writer is a London-based seasoned journalist.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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