I’ve been thinking a lot about my father, hareini kaparat mishkavo, lately. He used to say, “If the world is prepared to stand by and watch Jews be slaughtered again, then the world does not deserve to exist.”
That moment, I fear, has come. The very existence of Israel (which whatever its virtues or failings is home to nearly half of all Jews living today) has become in the eyes of much of the world a big bother. And we are not speaking here about the Moslem or Arab world, but about much of the West.
References to the creation of Israel as a “mistake” not worth the price are commonplace in European discourse. Even Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen describes Israel in this fashion – as based on a delusional fantasy that a colony of Jews could ever gain acceptance in the Arab Middle East.
Tony Judt (a Jewish professor) finds an ethnic-religious state like Israel to be an “anachronism” in a post-nationalist world. Interestingly, he sees no similar infirmity in all those Moslem states in which Sharia is the law of the land, and which non-Moslems are barred from citizenship.
What lies behind all this talk of “mistakes” and “anachronisms?” The belief that if Israel somehow disappeared the world would be a far happier place. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, professors at two of America’s leading universities, in their infamous paper “The Israel Lobby,” identify not one threat to world peace that is not directly attributable to Israel. Not Iran. Not North Korea.
The perfidy and trickiness of those sly Jews is almost beyond belief in Walt and Mearsheimer’s telling. Israel, they charge, withdrew from Gaza with the deliberate intent to bring into power a Hamas-led government and thereby bring an end to the “peace process.” More recently, speaking before the Council on American-Islamic Relations, they charged that Israel had long planned an invasion of Lebanon and that Hizbullah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers was merely a pretext for doing so.
What prime minister, after all, would not want to see one million of his country’s citizens spend a month cowering in bomb shelters, the economy brought to a standstill, and his own poll numbers hit absolute bottom? And wasn’t it clever of those Jews to trick Nasrallah into attacking Israel? I wonder how they did that.
The claim that support for Israel underlies virtually every act of Islamic terrorism in the world gains greater currency with each terrorist attack. In England, and much of Western Europe, it is already gospel. After British authorities uncovered a plot by native-born British Moslems to blow up ten or more transatlantic carriers, Moslem peers and MPs in England audaciously wrote that England can only expect many more such plots as long as it does not alter its Middle East policy.
Rather than reacting with rage to the implicit threat from its own honored representatives, the British public lapped it up and cast Tony Blair from office for daring to label this view of matters as more than a bit insane.
Yet even in the Middle East itself, the greatest losses of life have not had the slightest connection to Israel: the million lives lost in the Iraqi-Iranian war, the hundreds of thousands of Moslems slaughtered by their fellow Moslem’s in Sudan’s Darfur Province, civil wars in Algeria and Yemen, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Syria’s murder of more than 25,000 of its own citizens in Hama.
MUCH OF THE WEST DOES not just lament the error of Israel’s creation, but is prepared to assist, either actively or passively, in reversing that historical mistake. Iranian president Ahmadinejad threatens to wipe Israel or the map, and his predecessor publicly offered his calculus for a nuclear exchange with Israel: one nuclear bomb could wipe out Israel’s five million Jews, whereas the loss of an equal number of Iranians would still leave another 15 million alive.
Despite the blatant threats against Israel’s existence, Ahmadinejad is still treated to submissive visits from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a host of European dignitaries, and a fawning interview by America’s “toughest” TV journalist focusing on his sweet family and sartorial tastes. Meanwhile, after more than 3 years of diplomatic talk-talk, we are no closer to the most minimal collective action to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Even more telling is the West’s refusal to grant Israel the right to defend itself from attack. It is the West that has made the terrorists’ tactic of embedding themselves among civilians a win-win proposition: If their missiles kill Israelis, that is a win; and if Israel strikes back at those firing those missiles and kills civilians as well, the ensuing media condemnations of Israel are an even greater win.
Those who routinely condemn every Israeli attempt to strike back at those operating from among civilians populations as “disproportionate” or “war crimes,” without every specifying how Israel should protect its citizens (other than announcing its own dissolution), effectively deny Israel the right to defend itself. In our rough neighborhood a state that cannot defend itself will not long survive.
The irony, however, is that by denying Israel the right to defend itself, the Europeans only make more likely the most disastrous possible outcomes. Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin has testified that missiles are pouring into Gaza, just as they poured into southern Lebanon between 2000 and 2006. And efforts are underway to bring them into the West Bank as well.
Given Israel’s vulnerability to missile attack, and the world’s condemnation of any response, the Palestinians will be tempted to use those missiles to keep Israel in a permanent state of mobilization and to make life generally intolerable. At that point, it will literally be them or us.
And especially if the Palestinians were to unleash their missiles in the midst of a conventional war with Syria or Egypt or both, Israel would have no time to go searching for Palestinian missiles house to house. It would have no choice but to level Palestinian areas and send the population packing.
Where things would go from there no one wants to contemplate. But the West should not count on Israel to go quietly into the night.
By refusing to take Iran’s nuclear threats seriously or permit Israel to defend itself in the same fashion as any other nation, the West could well be sowing its own worst case scenario.
Dad would have appreciated the irony.
Originally appeared in Mishpacha’s Hebrew edition, September 13, 2006.