by Khaled Abu Toameh
It is sad and abhorrent to see how many Arabs have rejoiced over the big forest fire in Northern Israel, calling it a "divine punishment" for Israelis and wishing that the blaze would spread to destroy all Jews.
The messages of hate are the result of decades of incitement against Israel and Jews in the Arab media and mosques throughout the Arab and Islamic world.
The comments serve as a reminder that many people in the Arab and Islamic countries still have not come to terms with Israel's right to exist in this part of the world. Even worse, many of the talkbacks show that many Arabs and Muslims would welcome another Holocaust.
These reactions were posted on Web sites of major Arab media outlets, such as the popular Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya TV networks, and the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
What is troubling is that these repugnant comments appeared on Web sites that are not necessarily associated with radical Islam.
Al-Arabiya and Asharq Al-Awsat are owned by members of the Saudi royal family, which, ironically, has been frequently targeted by Muslim fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda.
The overwhelming majority of talkbacks that appeared on the Web sites of these three powerful media organizations in the past few days showed how many Arabs and Muslim continue to dream about the destruction of Israel.
True, some readers and viewers did not join in the "celebration" of the fire that killed more than 40 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of trees. Some even expressed sympathy with Israel, and some even criticized Arabs and Muslims who rejoiced over the fire.
But these "positive" comments reflected the opinion of a tiny minority. For example, out of 123 comments posted on one of the Web sites, less than 15 seemed to be rational.
The hateful postings did not only come from Arab and Islamic countries and the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories, but also from Arabs living in North America, Australia, Sweden and Europe.
Ahmed Abdallah from Australia wrote the following comment on Al-Jazeera's Web site: "O' God, how generous you are! Bring happiness to the heart of every Palestinian mother who lost her son or whose son is in prison."
Writing from Berlin, Germany, a reader who identified himself as Sarrawi commented: "Thank God and 1,000 congratulations [for the death of 42 Israelis]. O' God, give us more!"
From the UK, Zuheir Dabbagh wrote: "Thank God, we bring the good news to the Muslims that the land has gotten rid of 40 criminals."
Arabs who agreed to help Israel put out the fire also came under attack. The Palestinian Authority leadership and the Egyptian and Jordanian governments were strongly denounced as "traitors" for sending firefighters to Israel.
What is also worrying about the thousands of comments is that many Arabs and Muslims see Israel's appeal for international assistance in putting out the fire as a sign of weakness.
Many of those who expressed joy over the fire urged Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas to seize the "golden opportunity" and try to eliminate Israel for once and for all. Others wrote that if Israel cannot handle a fire, there is no reason to believe that it could win in any war.
There is good reason to believe that the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes expressed in these comments reflect the views of many Arabs and Muslims. With attitudes like these, it is hard to see how real peace can be achieved in the Middle East in the near future. Unless this incitement stops, the prospects of moving forward with the "peace process" between Israelis and Arabs are as bleak as ever.
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