As you've probably read, an Egyptian refused to shake hands with an Israeli athlete at the Olympics. Israeli heavyweight judoka Or Sasson extended his hand to Islam El Shehaby, whom he had just defeated, but the gesture was refused. It wasn't poor sportsmanship, as Bret Stephens explains:
If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.
This all-consuming hatred is something the West tries to ignore, blaming the Middle East's chaos instead on the legacy of colonialism, oil politics, sectarian divides and other factors.
The hatred of Jews has proven costly. The Arab world, Stephens observes, has got rid of Jews, at a vast cost of talent. It has waged costly wars and its intellectual atmosphere is "perverted" by this hatred. Unfortunately, this is not something new in the world:
As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.
Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.
These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.
In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution.
. . .
Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.
Stephens notes that in the last few years there are signs of change. Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have a common enemy in ISIS and this might lead to some grudging dealings. Israel faces an existential threat because of anti-Semitism. But the Arab world suffers, too:
So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.
I would like to add that U.S. political leaders tend to dismiss the threats posed to Israel by neighbors who say they want to erase it from the earth. But maybe a degree of rapprochement between Israel and some of her Arab neighbors is coming without the United States, increasingly feckless in that region. being involved.