June 14, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1618

Liberal Egyptian Author Kamal Gabriel on the Discourse of Violence in the Middle East

June 14, 2007
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1618

In a May 23, 2007 article titled "We Are Sowing Thorns" on the Elaph website, Egyptian liberal author Kamal Gabriel[1] decried what he termed "the psychology and the culture of violence and hatred" in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East in general. He wrote that those who had encouraged this phenomenon had intended to use it against Israel and the West, but that once it took root it became impossible to control, and has led to domestic infighting in the Gaza Strip and in Iraq.

The following are excerpts:[2]

"The All-Against-All Infighting… [Has] Become the Mental and Psychological Makeup of the Palestinian People"

"What is going on now in the Gaza Strip, since Israel withdrew from it, is a clear example that exposes the faults of what we have done. The domestic infighting among brothers of the same homeland, wretched from the occupation and wretched from the yielding of their culture, is too great and too dangerous to be [just] the result of differences of opinion among the factions, or the absence of a strong central government, or even of what they call the weapons anarchy.

"It is definitely all of this. But the most dangerous thing about this, and that which the bilateral meetings between the sides, or meetings under the auspices of a third party… or even the folkloric Arab League summits have been unable to overcome, is that the all-against-all infighting and its basic code have become the mental and psychological makeup of the Palestinian people, as a natural result of the predominant discourse of hostility and incitement. [This discourse] has been adopted by Palestinians of all persuasions and in all the factions – religious, pan-Arab revolutionary, and leftist. It is a discourse whose aim was sowing hatred, having recourse to violence, and enjoying spilling blood.

"At first it was directed against the so-called the Israeli enemy, and it uprooted any possibility of or tendency towards rational mutual comprehension or of recourse to discussion, dialogue, and negotiation – what is known as peaceful resolution – and it raised the slogan of 'clinging to the choice of resistance.' But one clings to goals, not methods, and resistance (meaning armed resistance) cannot, psychologically and culturally, be the only choice for peoples to achieve their goals, without there being any alternative…

"Perhaps this is [an example of] the only [psychological] state in which the goal and the means are seen to become united in the choice of violence. This occurs when someone is overcome with the spirit of vengeance…

"The culture and psychology of violence has been able to take possession of the Palestinian people for two reasons. The first is that the discourse of violence had already managed to be the only one on the scene, which was emptied of any counter-discourse when the rational thinkers fled or were forced to keep out of sight – [either] out of desperation or in order to preserve the wellbeing of themselves and their families amidst the vast flood of feelings of violence that began to sweep away everything in its path.

"The second reason is that the predominant discourse of violence, most of which was formed by the religious discourse, was not the discourse of a means that attempts to achieve a goal – for instance, the liberation of the homeland – but rather was a discourse of violence and sacred killing in the name of jihad, which the literature of violence considered to be a duty that had been neglected and which needed to be carried out by every believer. [This was written,] for instance, in 'Abd Al-Salam Farag's book The Neglected Duty, which has been an authoritative source for the jurisprudence of jihad since the 1970s."

"The Hatred was Transformed from Hatred of Zionism to Hatred of Jews, the Sons Of Apes and Pigs"

"This was translated into political language in the slogan that the Arab-Israeli struggle is an existential struggle, and not a struggle over borders, and its implementation in practice was the so-called martyrdom-seeking operations for killing Israeli civilians. The hatred was transformed from hatred of Zionism to hatred of Jews, the sons of apes and pigs.

"Perhaps no one has noticed – for where are we to find someone to notice, in the absence of reason and rationality? – that when you take an individual or a group away from the culture of using reason and peaceful dialogue, and replace it with the culture of violence and of killing those who are different, you cannot then afterwards control it and direct it to be used against one single side.

"This is what we said: It starts with the Zionist enemy who is occupying the Holy Land, and then the violence and the hatred spread dangerously, like fire, in the psyche of the one over which they have gained mastery. They consume everything around them – and the first thing they consume is the light of reason. The individual loses his natural balance, which is based on the balance between peaceful tendencies [that encourage] peace, and angry tendencies that incite to violence…

"Thus we observed, and gave our blessing to, the conflagrations of violence and hatred, and they extended from [being aimed at] the Zionist enemy to [being aimed at] anyone who befriended it or helped it – even if they helped us as well, and even if it was someone on whom we depended for medicine, food, and everything.

"Our violence and hatred extended to America, England, and the other Western countries, and there is a BBC journalist who is still a prisoner of our jihad-fighting organizations…"

"The Natural Consequence of… the Culture and Psychology of Violence… is the Fraternal Violence We See [Today]"

"The natural consequence of the rule of the culture and psychology of violence and its expansion is the fraternal violence we see [today], which has defied and will [continue to] defy all attempts to contain it – [violence among brothers] whom we all agree are miserable by any standard.

"The state of the Palestinian territories is perhaps the most critical in this respect… but we can give similar examples from all corners of what is called the greater Middle East – among them what is happening in Iraq among the Sunnis, the Shi'ites, and the Ba'thists as a result of the influence of the Ba'thist-Saddamist discourse…

"There are thousands of other examples, which seem at first sight less important and less acute in their level of violence, but that we assess as more serious because they indicate the expansion of the culture and psychology of violence and the rejection of discussion… This is among regular people in their daily lives…

"Violence naturally exists at all times and in every place. But we are in the midst of a striking growth in violence, not to say an increase at a catastrophic rate. In my estimation, this is the fruit that we are harvesting because we sowed thorns for over half a century.

"Thus, the crisis in the region is not the amount of disagreements in points of view or differences in interests [between ourselves] and our neighbors or the world. In both of these [cases], reason and dialogue can find solutions, whether comprehensive or partial, that are completely satisfactory, acceptable, or at least can be borne.

"Rather, the true crisis in the region is that the peoples of the region need psychological and cultural reeducation – which must necessarily be preceded by halting the discourse of violence, incitement, and hatred, in all its colors and classifications.

"But can this come about when the fires of hatred have already broken out [everywhere]?"


[1] See also MEMRI TV Clip No. 641, "Egyptian Liberal Kamal Gabriel…," April 5, 2005,

[2], May 23, 2007.

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