|“JERUSALEM SUMMIT” – 12.10.2003
The subject of this session is “The Crisis in Morality and International Policy: How Israel may be the solution”. Well, I may have a great deal to say about the crisis – as to the solution, this will depend on a lot of factors – including if Israel itself understands that in order to be “A Light upon the Nations” – it must first direct that light on itself, to itself.
Over a century ago, Bismarck, the great German statesman, said: “We live in a wondrous time in which the strong is weak because of his moral scruples – and the weak grows strong because of his shamelessness”. The message is clear and it is appropriate – now more than ever before – and not only in the case of Israel.
The Left – led by a self-anointed cultural elite in Europe, and partly in America – has become mired in anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism. And many of our own self-styled intellectuals will always look for some attenuating circumstances where Palestinian terror is concerned, always blame the Israeli Government or the Israeli people as a whole, never the Palestinians. But, as I said, this is not exclusively an Israeli experience – Gore Vidal, the American writer, in addition to never missing an opportunity to attack Israel or the Jews, has opposed every American Administration after Kennedy – and, as someone has written, “never fails to find the keen ears of the European Liberal Left”. Among his special “pearls” of hatred was comparing the “Bush-Cheney Junta” to Saddam Hussein. And one remembers the German Minister who compared Bush to Hitler; then there was the intellectual fraud and falsifier of history, including his own, Eduard Saïd, no longer with us, alas – who duped many well-meaning people to believe that he was a man of peace and tolerance rather than what he really was, namely someone who wanted to destroy Israel. Not to be outdone by anyone, there is the Anglo-Pakistani writer Tariq Ali, darling of the Left, who in the British “Guardian” wrote about the brutal “re-colonization” of Iraq by the U.S. and its bloodshot British adjutant” – which may perhaps be deemed fairly mild for him, if one compares it to what he wrote 2 years ago in the “Washington Post”, namely “that though for most of its history Islam” had supposedly “enjoyed cordial relations with Judaism” – which, by the way, factually is wrong – the breach “appeared only in the mid-20th century with the imposition of a Jewish “settler-state”, Israel, on and at the expense of the local Arab population... The Palestinians were to be punished for a European Judeocide”. This is another twist and falsification of history – which, by the way, the former German Socialist Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was one of the first to perpetrate – namely that as a consequence of the holocaust the world owed a debt not to the Jews... but to the Arabs, because of the creation of Israel. That Zionism had preceded the holocaust, that though the holocaust had deprived Zionism of most of its natural human reserves – the return of the Jewish people to its homeland and the re-establishment of its State was not because of the holocaust but despite the holocaust – is ignored by the re-writers of history. For the Arabs, by the way, this presents a certain dilemma: while they prefer to deny the holocaust altogether – they also want to blame the Christian world for bringing it about – and for “planting this settler-state in their midst”.
By the way, having mentioned the “Guardian” before, in one of its own editorials that same paper wrote that though the world hadn’t really behaved well during the holocaust – “the establishment of the State of Israel may have been too high a price to pay for that...” To be fair, it isn’t only the Left, and I am not saying anything very original when I remind ourselves that the extreme Right and the Left often meet on both anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism – or for that, anti-globalization. So we have Pat Buchanan, or LePen, or in the past the pro-Nazi German philosopher Martin Heidegger who wrote that Americanism “was fatally undermining the European Spirit”... One wonders what spirit he was referring to when he personally and his colleagues were engaged in Nazi-inspired book-burning.
The difference, however, is that while only the more-or-less lunatic fringes of the right can today, contrary to the past, be identified with such tendencies – on the Left it is no longer the extremists – but also major parts of the so-called moderate, mainline Left who have succumbed to proto-fascist Israel and America baiting.
There is more than one reason for this – nor is the link between Israel-hating and America-hating so tenuous or purely accidental – for Israel is perceived by them as the “cat’s paw”, as Ian Buruma in the Financial Times of September 13, put it, – “of U.S. imperialism in the Middle-East, and the colonial enemy of Palestinian nationalism”. All this, of course, is a way for many Europeans to cleanse themselves of their own colonial guilt. The fact that Israel and the Zionist movement were in the very forefront of rising up against colonial rule after World War II, is conveniently ignored by the Left. And the writer adds: “The contemporary anti-Zionists of the Left sound just like the crusty old Arabists of the old foreign office school” – and one might add “foreign offices” in plural; “the fact that Jews can now safely be compared to Nazis is an added sop to European guilt about another horrible blot on their collective conscience”. In Britain today you can have an apparently well-known writer of children’s books, I repeat children’s books, a lady called Laird, writing an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian book about “poor” Arafat in Ramallah – and get the B.B.C. to devote a fairly lengthy program to it.
Zionism is not just a political movement, not only an ideology and an ideal – it is perhaps the most significant victory of the human spirit over the forces of evil that modern history has known. But in addition, it is also one of the few ideologies in modern times which has been by and large successful – surely against greater odds than most other ideologies or national movements. But could this not be the very reason for the envy-based hatred against Israel – just as the success of America is one of the reasons for the antagonism against it in many parts of the world, especially in Europe? And there is, of course, another factor, not always sufficiently recognized – the corrupt, nepotist, polically bankrupt regimes in most of the Arab world are scared to death that their own societies might be contaminated by the Israeli ideas of democracy, rule of law, women’s rights, and all the rest.
America itself is not immune to self-hatred and/or Israel hatred either – though this is on a much smaller scale compared to Europe. But even in New York, though not yet fashionable, it’s become permissible to stage anti-Israel plays or to make anti-Jewish movies. France, of course, is a special case – it always is. So we had a well-known writer and pundit, Jean Baudrillard, writing in the Leftist “Le Monde”, just a few weeks after 9/11 – that what had happened on that day was “how we have dreamt of this this event – how all the world without exception dreamt of this event – for no one can avoid dreaming of the destruction of a power that has become hegemonic – it is they who acted, but we who wanted the deed”.
Another troubling recent manifestation in the same spirit of anti-Israelism and anti-Americanism have been the so-called “human shields” – which in an article in the “Washington Times” I have called “Human Shields for Human Fiends”. You may remember the young man, Tom Hurndall, a self-styled British “peace-activist” who was critically wounded in Gaza while trying to impede Israeli army actions. Before arriving in Israel , he had been volunteering as a “human shield” in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, “intending to protect Iraqis against U.S. attack”. Earlier, another “human shield”, Rachel Corrie, was accidentally killed in the Gaza strip – an area where Israeli soldiers (no older than Hurndall and Corrie) were daily risking their lives fighting terrorism. Corrie had also been photographed burning an American flag. Not to be outdone, other “human shields”, mostly from France, but also from other countries, including Israel, have made a habit of positioning themselves around Yasser Arafat’s bunker in Ramallah.
Hurndall and Corrie belonged to what I consider a terrorist front organization calling itself ISM, short for “International Solidarity Movement”, which last March was suspected of giving shelter in Jenin to a senior commander of “Islamic Jihad”. More recently, the two suicide-bombers involved in the attack on a Tel Aviv pub near the American Embassy on April 30, had spent time meeting with ISM functionaries in the Gaza strip. Perhaps some of the volunteers who have joined ISM, honestly believe that they are doing something for peace and humanity – just as in the more distant past, not all of those joining the various communist front organizations, e.g. the World Student Movement, Professors for Peace, etc. realized that they were being used by one of history’s most vicious and murderous regimes. The same probably applies to the present-day activists who do not realize (or refuse to accept) that they are being used by “Hamas”, “Islamic Jihad” and other brutal terror groups.
What makes an apparently normal human being want to become a “human shield”? Perhaps only professional psychologists will be able to explain why there are people who have an almost pathological urge to identify especially with the bad guys – the dictators, the terrorists, the human fiends. But in the present situation there is also another side to it; less than 60 years after the holocaust, the world is again faced with a rising wave of anti-Semitism, disguised as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, joining Neo-Nazis with parts of the old and the new left, holocaust deniers and other assorted ill weeds – all bound together by their common admiration for Palestinian terrorists (“freedom fighters”) on the one hand – and hatred of Israel, and often its very right to exist, on the other hand.
Suicide killings have become a culture among many Muslims, including some of those who do not even belong to fundamentalist or Islamist terror organizations; We have had suicide bombers also from “Fatah”. It isn’t just a means to an end – but a cultural phenomenon which is closely related to the tradition of at least parts of Islam as a whole.
As our friend Max Singer noted, “it is clear that there was no general Muslim revulsion” against 9/11, “no broad community reaction that would rule out further attacks”. Samuel Huntington actually had it wrong – it isn’t a war between the West and all other civilizations – it is a war between fundamentalist Islam plus those in the West who willingly or unwittingly aid and abet it, on the one side – and all the rest – the West, democratic India, the Far-East and moderate Islam or what’s left of it – on the other side. But no less than Huntington, Fukuyama also got it wrong: it wasn’t the end of history at all – it was the beginning of a new, perhaps even more frightening chapter in history.
The war America and Israel find themselves in – and actually not only America and Israel, but all of the Free World, East and West – though for reasons of momentary or imagined convenience, not all of the latter want to admit it – is primarily a war of ideas – but not a normal war of ideas where one ideological side endeavors to convince the other side of the correctness of its ideas; in this war one side, the Islamist side, strives to destroy the other side and all that it stands for: the Judeo-Christian ethic, democracy, human rights, the equality of women, the rule of law, etc. As long ago as the ‘twenties of the last century, Winston Churchill wrote about the fundamentalist Wahabis of what was later to become Saudi Arabia, that they intended to kill anyone who didn’t adopt their beliefs.
As Robert Kaplan wrote the other day in the “N.Y. Times Book Review”, reviewing Bernard Henri-Levy’s very important book about the brutal murder of “Wall Street Journal” correspondent Daniel Pearl: “Those who can so gruesomely destroy an innocent individual, may well be capable of destroying millions”. Therefore, just as Nazism tried to destroy all those above mentioned human values – and, therefore, had to be destroyed, not assuaged, the scourge of Islamist terror has to be destroyed, not assuaged.
And just as the war against Nazism, and one could say communism too, this war of ideas will probably have to be backed by force, or at least by a credible threat of force – and America and Israel have shown the way in this respect. None of us is enamored with this reality – but ignoring it won’t make the threats facing us go away. Because otherwise one day we shall say to ourselves: “Why did we repeat the mistakes of the Free World in the ‘30’s when Hitler could still have been stopped – and wasn’t?” This war must be won. There is no alternative.