Sometimes, a marginal episode sheds light on deep-seated faulty perception. Internal documents recently published in the United States revealed that the officer the state had appointed to head its unit for gaining public support for its moves in Afghanistan had prepared himself for the job by reading Islam for Dummies. 

Based on the “success” of their policies and advice, it seems that a significant portion of Westerners involved in Islamic societies has based their insights on such in-depth analysis. From U.S. policy in Afghanistan to the integration of immigrants in Europe, the same shallow and dubious assumptions are evident. 

The episode in Afghanistan is most amusing, but the matter is serious: The American delusion of contribution and profound improvement of Afghan lives, especially women, in the hope of stabilizing the country and preventing terrorists from seizing leadership. Despite the public promises of U.S. presidents—from George Bush to Barack Obama—not to engage in building the Afghan nation, it turns out that Washington has spent $143 billion on such civilian projects, much of which took place in the days of Obama.

Shallow insights have led Europe to open its doors to millions of immigrants from Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa, expecting them to integrate into a democratic society and gradually adopt its values. Proponents of this short-sighted policy assumed that anyone that fled their homeland due to a violent and oppressive culture at home, would not bring that culture along with them to Europe. It continues to deny the extent of the damage the arrival of these immigrants has caused to the continent’s social fabric. It dares not admit that “multiculturalism” has failed abysmally.

In Israel, the leadership and public are less naive than in America and less detached from reality than in Europe but are still hung up on the same approach, despite its 100-year history of failure. 

Violence, political extremism and refusal on behalf of Palestinians and Arab Israelis are thought to stem from dispossession, poverty, discrimination and neglect. This is a failing political culture. Arab society in Israel was violent, tribal, patriarchal and oppressive even before the advent of Zionism, the establishment of the state and the “occupation” of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was not the “siege” on the Gazans that led to their barbarism, but their barbarism that necessitated the restrictions. 

The explanations ignore the cultural essence; Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev explains that violence in Israel’s Arab society stems from “decades of neglect, disregard, and fear of getting into the thick of the sector’s problems,” and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai says it is the result of “growing inequality and rifts within the society.”

From Afghanistan to Europe, Jenin, Lod, Akko and Umm el-Fahm, many Arabs—perhaps in Israel more than anywhere else—know full well the terrible price of this culture. It costs them their loved ones, and yet they dare not speak out against it publicly.

Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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