Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Because They Hate:
A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America,
By Brigitte Gabriel. 
St. Martin’s Press, 2006, 258 pp.
Reviewed by Harry Antonides
July  23, 2007

It’s hard to imagine we have been living like this for three years. It’s now 1978. But time doesn’t really matter or mean much anymore. There is no reason to keep up with time or days or holidays. There is no change; there are no events to look forward to: no time to have to be in school, no time to be at a doctor’s appointment, no time to be at a social event. About the only thing time can tell us is when the shelling will begin, and it might be our time to die.(p. 53) 

Brigitte Gabriel, born in Lebanon in 1965, tells a story that is not just about the traumatic experiences of a family that faced the terrors of war with courage and hope, but one that contains a message with worldwide implications. 

This is a gripping account of the civil war that changed Lebanon from a peaceful and prosperous country to one torn apart by civil war and terrorists attacks that have left most of its physical and social infrastructure in ruins. The author’s purpose in writing this book is to alert a smug and willfully blind West that unless it honestly faces its fanatical enemies, it will suffer the same fate as Lebanon.  

Brigitte was the only child of two loving parents, who came from a long line of Maronite Christians. She experienced the first ten years of her life in a small Christian town called Marjayoun, close to the border with Israel, as charmed and privileged. At age four she began attending a private Roman Catholic school where she learned to read and write in Arabic and French. 

Gabriel provides a helpful overview of the millennia-long history of Christianity in her country. Though part of the larger Arabic world, she describes pre-war Lebanon as “an island of freedom in the middle of an Islamic sea of tyranny and oppression.” It was the only country in the Middle East where Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter were openly celebrated as they are in Europe and America. 

When Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1941, the population was roughly 55 per cent Christian and 45 per cent Muslim.  Two year later the Lebanese National Pact created an arrangement that provided for power sharing among the various religious communities. At first that led to a peaceful coexistence and cooperation that is unique in the Arab world. 

From Peace to War

 But over time, ancient hatreds and rivalries drifted to the surface again. Chief among them was the Muslim hatred toward Jews and Christians. The demographic changes shifted in favour of the Muslim population due to the influx of Palestinian refugees.  Most important, after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was expelled from Jordan in 1970, many Palestinians resettled in Lebanon: 

Gabriel explains that this influx of new arrivals tipped the scale toward civil war in Lebanon. The new Muslim majority, now supported by the Soviet Union and other Muslim countries, felt empowered by the presence of the PLO and Yasser Arafat. 

The PLO used its position of power to begin its attacks on Israel and on the Christians within Lebanon. All-out civil war began in April 1975, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on worshipers outside a Maronite church in Beirut. Gabriel writes: “Lebanon’s descent into hell had begun.” In all, she reports that one hundred thousand civilians were killed. 

On a cold and windy night in 1975, after the family had gone to bed, the carefree childhood of the author came crashing down with rockets raining on the house, leaving it in ruins. Miraculously, she and her parents survived although she suffered serious wounds that required surgery and hospitalization. 

Then followed seven years of barely surviving in a small underground bomb shelter near the ruins of their once beautiful house and her father’s restaurant. Once a rocket landed close to their shelter piling up earth and concrete and blocking their exit. They were trapped for no matter how hard they tried, they were not able to remove the debris that blocked their escape. After three days of shouting for help, they gave up hope and were prepared to die. But then members of the Lebanese army heard their screams and freed them. 

Gabriel describes in heartbreaking details their “life under terror” as Islamic terrorists began killing thousands of Christians and making their lives impossible. The small Gabriel family barely survived the frequent shellings. After the South Lebanese Army pushed the Muslim fighters farther north away from their village, their lives assumed some form of normalcy though the clouds of war never disappeared.  

The so-called Six Parties Agreement of October 1976, supposedly ushering in the end of the civil war in Lebanon, did no such thing. The killings in Lebanon and attacks on Israel by the PLO continued. In March 1978, Israel launched its incursion into southern Lebanon. Four years later, the Israeli army began its operation Peace for Galilee, pushing PLO and other Muslim forces toward Beirut. 

A Life-Changing Experience

This move by Israel provided a breathing spell for the Christians living near the southern border with Israel. But not before Gabriel’s family was nearly killed by incoming 155 millimeter shells that exploded in their backyard, seriously wounding her mother. Gabriel managed to get her mother to the local hospital, where the Israeli doctors decided to send her for further medical care to a hospital in Israel. 

The kindness and full attention her mother received at the hands of the Israeli medical staff amazed her, and it forced her to realize that the anti-Israel propaganda that had surrounded her was utterly false. She noticed that the Israeli doctors made no distinction between their own people and all others, including Muslims. She was filled with gratitude and called this encounter with the first Jewish people she had ever met a “life-changing experience.”   

She was shocked that one Muslim woman, who had received the medical care she needed and had stayed for twelve days in the hospital, still hated all Jews. After the attending doctor had left the room, she said with an “evil, hate-filled look” on her face: “I hate you all. I wish you were all dead.” Gabriel continues: 

And for the first time in my life I saw evil, I realized that this Muslim couldn’t love the Jews even after they had saved her life. And when you are unable to be grateful to the people who saved your life, you have no soul. When humans become devoid of compassion, a sense of forgiveness, and open-mindedness, when they surrender their humanity to hate, they become an evil force of darkness that is irreconcilable with hope, love, and peace.  

Gabriel realized that there was no future for her in the country of her birth. But in order to escape what she describes as “the seemingly endless hell of Lebanon” she had to concentrate on her studies, especially English.  She took on volunteer work and completed a business administration course, eventually obtaining a job with the Israeli military and then as an administrative secretary in the local hospital, working for Israeli and Arab doctors.  

In 1984, her contacts there led to a position with Middle East Television as Arab speaking news anchor. Here she had an opportunity to take a close look at the fundamental difference between the Arab and Western cultures, which convinced here that there exists indeed a clash of civilization. (That chapter alone is worth the price of the book.) 

The Wrong Signals

What Gabriel finds most disturbing about this clash is that the West, fails to understand what is at stake. She is convinced that the greatest danger we face is not in the power of radical Islam but in the failure of the West to adequately assess and defend itself against a determined enemy bent on establishing a worldwide Islamic rule. She cites case upon case in which the West, including America, gave the wrong signals. Here is a case in point: 

When Iran’s vicious puppet Hezbollah blew up the marines in Lebanon in 1983, America turned tail and ran, leaving the Christians to be slaughtered in town after town. It sent a strong, loud, and clear message to the Muslim radicals of the world, including Osama bin Laden: America is no longer the power it used to be…. As a result of the humiliation of America and the conquest of Lebanon, the flames of jihad now rage all over the world. 

The truth of Gabriel’s assessment of Western naivete hits home when we realize that even the most dangerous Islamic networks, including Hamas, al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, have their supporters and tentacles right in America. She cites names and instances where theirs ties were revealed and people were found guilty of aiding the enemy. Further, a number of well-known Islamic organizations, in the U.S. pose as pro-American, but in reality they are enablers of the jihadists. One such prominent organization is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). A great deal of Saudi Arabian money is devoted to building American mosques where radical imams continue to preach a message of hate towards America. 

The 9/11 attack came as a cruel shock to America. What was even more incomprehensible to Americans was the jubilation and dancing in the Arab streets. Americans were dumbstruck with such rejoicing over the death of three thousand innocent men women and children.  Why do they hate us so? was the question many asked. Gabriel’s answer is short: because they hate us and our way of life and everything about us. She continues:  

They hate our freedom. They hate our democracy. They hate the practice of every religion but their own. They don’t just disagree. They hate.  Not just Judaism. Not just Christianity. In various parts of the world today, Islamists are also waging terror war against Hindus, Buddhists, and all other “infidels.” The imposition of Islam upon the entire world is not merely their goal. It is their religious duty.  They are following the word of their holy book, the Koran, which is the guide to hatred of infidels, waging war, and victory through slaughter. 

Fifth Columnists at Work

 Gabriel devotes a chapter to the influence of Islam in American universities and colleges, facilitated by millions of Arab dollars.  She reports that the Saudi royal family alone has spent close to 70 billion dollars worldwide to spread the Wahhabist branch of Islam. America universities have been the grateful beneficiaries of this largess, heedless of the fact that this money has been used to further the cause of radical Islam.  

The result is that at many campuses in America, Muslim student organizations and pro-Islam professors and administrators have succeeded in creating a climate rife with anti-American and anti-Israel fanaticism. Gabriel has often met with hostile opposition to her pro-American, pro-Israel and anti-radical Islamist speeches. She has received death threats and been barred from certain speaking events for her unapologetic defence of freedom of religion and speech.  

What makes this book special is that the author speaks from bitter, even heartbreaking experience. She knows what can happen to a country that falls prey to Islam-driven fanaticism. 

Gabriel, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1989, is able to see more clearly than many in the West, that the West has to a large extent become the prisoner of its own fantasies and imagined invulnerability. In the meantime there are destructive forces at work that, if not understood and withstood in time, will do to us what happened to Lebanon. 

I believe that she is correct in seeing that, as she puts it, America and Israel are in the bull’s eye of the current clash between Western civilization and radical Islam. Many are confused about the reality of this conflict – a confusion that is cleverly exploited by those who are absolutely convinced that they are Allah’s instrument to spread the rule of Islam over the entire world. 

The author of Because They Hate helps us to cut through this confusion by telling the story of her family’s experience. She writes this book as a warning to America, and therefore to all who treasure freedom. For that she deserves our grateful attention.