Self Test: Are You a Fanatic on the Middle East?

Ask fanatics whether they are fanatics, and the answer they are likely to give is a calm No.

It's an honest answer. It reflects a self-conception of clear thinking, unsullied judgment, broad knowledge, and political consistency.

The fact that it is often dead wrong never seems to intrude. It's a primary perk of the genuinely extreme.

So how can you possibly tell if you are, in fact, a fanatic? As a start, take the following self-test.

Part One [30 Points]: True or False - The more I learn about the Israeli-Arab conflict, the clearer it becomes.

Part Two [70 Points]: The following are a list of Seven Deadly Sins of the Mideast. For each, answer the following question, regarding the two sides of the Israeli-Arab divide, with respect to the side that ethnicity, religion, lineage, and/or sentiment place you on.

A. The other side is constantly guilty of this sin. B. Both sides are often guilty of this sin.C. The other side is flagrantly guilty of this sin, and my side is often and unjustly accused of it.D. My side is flagrantly guilty of this sin, and the other side is often and unjustly accused of it.

1. Gall

Example: In an interview on the eve of a state visit to London in late October, Saudi King Abdullah accused Britain of failing to act strongly enough to combat international terrorism. He told the BBC that most countries, Britain included, did not view terrorism seriously enough.

"It will take 20 to 30 years to defeat the scourge of terrorism with vigilant effort," he said. "And I strongly urge all countries in the world, including Great Britain, to take the matter of fighting terrorism very, very seriously."

This, from the nation which remains the world's pre-eminent source of funding for terrorism.

This, from the royal family which spawned - and until he turned his guns around to face them, sponsored - Osama Bin Laden.

This, from the country which brought you 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, and which did precious little about it afterward.

2. Sanctimony

Example: June, 2006. Seven Palestinian civilians are killed in an explosion in Gaza. It may have been an errant artillery shell, a buried artillery shell, or some other explosive. Israel's response is instinctive.

"The IDF is the most moral army in the world," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tells his cabinet.

"It does not and never has made a policy of targeting civilians."

ASIDE: Let us, for the moment, put aside the debate comparing intentional versus incidental killing of civilians. Let us consider, instead, the possibility that the only truly moral army is the one which never faces an enemy, one which never fires a shot. One which is never at war.

Those who have served in the IDF will attest both to acts of extraordinary humanity under fire, and egregious acts of gratuitous cruelty in carrying out the duties of occupation. Neither, strictly speaking, are policy. They are a reflection of the broad autonomy of action granted Israeli commanders and soldiers.

3. Obscenities of Honor

Example: From a 1998 article on Honor Killings in Palestine by journalist Suzanne Ruggi in the Middle East Report:

"Every year, hundreds of women and girls are murdered in the Middle East by male family members. The honor killing-the execution of a female family member for perceived misuse of her sexuality-is a thorny social and political issue. Palestinian activists campaigning for equality find it difficult to stop the killings altogether. Legitimacy for such murders stems from a complex code of honor ingrained in the consciousness of some sectors of Palestinian society."

"The family constitutes the fundamental building-block of Palestinian society. Family status is largely dependent upon its honor, much of which is determined by the respectability of its daughters, who can damage it irreparably by the perceived misuse of their sexuality."

4. Obscenities of VictimhoodTHE MECHANISM: [Repeat until convinced] I am the victim. I am the only victim. There is no other victim before me. The other side, if it suffers, has brought this suffering on itself. The other side, if it suffers, cannot know how my side has suffered immeasurably more. The other side, if it suffers, deserves it.

5. RacismASIDE: Examples are legion. In many areas of the Middle East, Muslims of Arab origin mistreat Muslims of African origin, calling them "slave," shunning them or, in cases like Sudan, slaughtering them.

In Israel, there is an elaborate, multi-tiered pecking helix of racism and mutual hatreds, among them the Ashkenazi-Sephardi divide, the Jewish-Arab divide, and local feuds along such ethic lines as Jews of Russian, Moroccan and Ethiopian origin.

6. Obscenities of Higher Law, or, Claiming God's Will for Immoral ActsMECHANISM: Holy men sanction and legitimize violence against innocents and against institutions of religious denominations they oppose.

7. Lust for VengeanceFill in your favorite.SCORING

Part One: True - 30 Points. False ? 0.Part Two: For every C or D answer, 10 points. For every A answer, 5 Points. For every B answer, 0 points.

70 Points and above: Congratulations. You are a true fanatic.40-65 Points: You are conflicted, and may find yourself envying the conviction and apparent happiness of the fanatic.Less than 40 points: You are doomed to a certain level of woe. You are the true victim of the Seven Deadly Sins - a moderate.


Previous blogs:

People who hate the very idea of peaceNine reasons Annapolis will succeedA kinship of genocideDying of occupation - a case of cancer and the Israeli right Palestine, and the crime of being a Jewish state