The growing threat to Israel

[Editor's note: the following article is the text of an address given by our chief political correspondent Richard Baehr to a gathering at the Los Angeles area home of Tammy Steinsapir, a remarkable hostess who has revived the honorable and thoroughly enjoyable tradition of the political salon.]

Charles Krauthammer wrote an article in the Weekly Standard in 1998 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel.  In his article, Krauthammer argued that small nations, like Israel, can disappear. They are vulnerable in a way that the US, China, Russia and Japan are not. Large nations can lose wars, but they live on. Israel has never had the luxury of losing a war. Small nations have disappeared before and will in the future.

In his article on "Israel at 50" Krauthammer described Israel's and the Jewish people's unique vulnerability. In 1939, the world's Jewish population was 18 million, almost 1% of the 2 billion on the planet. Today, after the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust, Jews are barely 13 million worldwide, and make up only 0.2% of the world's total of 6.5 billion people. More than 80% of the Jews in the world are now in just two countries: Israel and the US.

When Theodore Herzl envisioned a new homeland for the Jews in Palestine, he believed that the Jews would flock there from Europe, and give up on their long struggle with pogroms, ghettos, anti—Semitism, and discrimination.   During the period of the 1930s and 1940s, when many Jews from Europe could have made it to safety in Palestine, the British, in an attempt to appease the local Arab population, refused to allow the Jews in, violating their League of Nations mandate to foster Jewish settlement of the land. Western nations, including our own, were not much more generous in accepting Jewish immigrants.  While we condemn the allies for not bombing Auschwitz in 1944—45, which might have saved a 100,000 Jews according to David Wyman, the failure to open Palestine to the Jews cost many more.

Today, Israel is alone among the nations in the world in seeing its Jewish population increase. Jews in Israel do not intermarry, and they have plenty of babies. Within a few years, if not already, Israel will surpass the United States as the nation with the world's largest Jewish population.  Meanwhile in the diaspora — in the United States, and more rapidly in Europe — there is Jewish population decline. A high intermarriage rate, and a low birth rate will do that to a population.

The conclusion is obvious: the Jewish future is Israel. Herzl's dream of Israel becoming the Jewish homeland is being validated, but not in the way he imagined. He believed most of the world's Jews would move to Israel if they had the chance. Several million did. But he did not foresee 6 million Jews wiped out in the Holocaust, or diaspora communities losing population with each succeeding generation through natural population decline.

The United States will retain a strong and vibrant Jewish community even with declining numbers, Krauthammer believes, so long as Israel survives. But if Israel is destroyed, he argues that the shock of a second enormous tragedy in such a short period of time will be too much for the community to bear.  In this case, if Israel falls, Krauthammer is apocalyptic. He sees the Jews shrinking in size and influence, and becoming an increasingly orthodox remnant, like the Amish in America, a small pious minority.

Israel is vulnerable. Among its 5.3 million Jewish citizens, more than 60% are packed into a small area, 70 miles north to south and ten to fifteen miles wide. Smaller than Rhode Island, to be exact.  For its entire modern history, Israel has faced the unrelenting enmity of its neighbors, and murderous terrorism from within. Now there is a new threat — missiles from afar carrying nuclear weapons. Much like China's Chairman Mao, who spoke openly in the 1960s of being unafraid of nuclear war with America, since China's much larger population would insure its survival and ultimate victory, today Iranian leaders have made similar threats to destroy Israel, a nation less than a tenth its size, if they have the opportunity.

For the past few years, European nations have tried to negotiate Iran's nuclear program away, attempting to demonstrate the superiority of their diplomatic approach in dealing with evil regimes and their threat, to America's military approach in Iraq.  It appears they have failed. Within some short period of time, Iran will have nuclear weapons.  Iran cannot always be 3 to 5 years away from developing their nuclear program, which is the estimate of the experts each and every year. Time moves on, and the window in which to stop the Iranians shrinks.  This new threat to Israel grows.

Israel has never lived without a threat to its existence. The truth of the matter is that Israel has never been accepted as a permanent nation within the Middle East by the 22 Arab nations, and much of the broader Muslim world. First the Arabs fought to prevent Jewish settlement within Palestine, and then fought the UN partition plan to create two states within the British mandate territory. After the British left, and Israel declared its statehood in 1948, the war against it resumed. The history of Zionism is a history of terrorism and war, but through it all, the tenacity of a people building and defending their new state.

The best chronicler of the history of Zionism and the rebirth of the Jewish nation was the Irish writer Connor Cruise O'Brien. O'Brien served for several years as part of his nation's delegation to the United Nations. Due only to the accident of the spelling of his country's name, O'Brien as Ireland's representative, was seated between the representatives of Israel and Iraq. As O'Brien recalls, he was not asked to pass any messages between the two.  O'Brien's book, The Siege, is a comprehensive history of Zionism and Israel though the year 1986. It is a sympathetic portrait and history, the kind that almost no European could or would write today.

Of course in Europe, Israel is regarded as a much graver threat to world peace than Iran. In a survey conducted across Western European countries last year, Israel and the US were ranked one and two as the greatest threats to world peace. A separate survey several months ago found that almost 40% of Germans believed that the US itself was behind the 9/11 attacks, so as to provide an excuse for war against Muslim nations.  In a separate survey in Germany, half of those polled indicated that Israel's crimes against the Palestinians were as bad or worse than those committed by Germany against the Jews in World War 2.  The fact that Germans have built a lot of new museums to commemorate the Jews they slaughtered, does not mean they have developed a new and better attitude to the Jews who are still alive, or grown a new moral sensibility.

But Germany is hardly alone in its attitudes about Israel, or America. In Norway, Israeli produce, at the demand of several left wing unions, is now marked with a Jewish star in the supermarket, making it easily identifiable, and facilitating a boycott of the products.*  Norway is proof that you can hate Jews even when you have almost none of them in your country.

In France the non—fiction bestseller for half a year was a book trying to prove that the attack against the Pentagon on 9/11 was faked, and never occurred.  There are major events that are in fact faked, though not the Pentagon attack, which killed 200 people plus 50 more on the plane that hit it.  As reported in Commentary in September, in a stunning article by Nidra Poller,  the supposed shooting of Muhammad al Dura  at the Netzarim junction in Gaza two days after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, was in all likelihood staged. French TV's Channel 2 provided the  film of the 'event' to stations around the world, and this story, more than any other event, ignited the second intifada, which has so far taken 1,500 Jewish lives, and 4,000 Palestinian lives. Al Dura is the martyr that many of the young suicide bombers have named in the short films they make before their own attacks.

The French TV reporter who went public with the al Dura story, Charles Enderlin, was not in Netzarim the day of the supposed shooting. He refused to reexamine the story when it was challenged by news and investigative teams from Israel, Germany and the US in subsequent years, who argued that the boy could not have been killed by Israeli fire, based on where he was crouched down with his father.  The French reporter was conned by a Palestinian stringer, a cameraman working for his station, who had been filming what can only be described as Palestinian street theatre for several hours, at which several supposed shootings, and ambulance arrivals were fake filmed.  But Enderlin, a leftist French Jew, was quite willing to believe that Israel would shoot a defenseless boy held by his father. It fit his world view of Israel as a nation that randomly murdered Palestinians.  One other part of the story— within a few hours of the supposed shooting, Palestinians were rioting all over the territories carrying poster

 with al Dura's picture on them. Now when could they have been made?
In terms of Israel, there is no hope in Europe. As Dennis Prager has said, on this and many other things that matter, Europe stinks.

Western Europe's governments have already effectively abandoned Israel, much as they did Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is too much of a burden for them to defend Israel, what with their surging Muslim immigrant populations to appease with the bone of hostility to Israel. And of course since Israel is a close ally of the United States, Europe's envy of America and its power and world leadership works its way to the surface by confronting the US in the Middle East conflict, through support of the Palestinian side in international organizations, such as the UN.

Europe, unlike America, has lost its Christian roots. And I believe this is one of the reasons why Europe has lost its way on the Middle East.  Much of the Christianity that remains on the Continent is really a variant of left wing secular humanism, of the kind seen in the liberal Protestant churches in America that have sought to divest their church funds from Israel the past two years. The new secular European, whether nominally Christian or not, frowns upon Israel, since he regards it as an anachronism for a Western nation to be associated with people of a certain faith, who still by and large practice that faith.

Of course, Israel, alone among the nations in its region, provides full citizenship and religious freedom to its Muslim and Christian minorities. It is a real, functioning pluralist democracy. In Saudi Arabia, a US soldier helping to defend the country, cannot wear a cross in public or attend a church service, since no Christian house of worship is permitted.  The millions of foreign workers who do much of the daily work of the Saudi nation, most of them Christian, are required to put their faith on hold when they move there to work.  But it is not Saudi Arabia that the intellectuals of Europe condemn for the backwardness of their religious zealotry, or for their intolerance.  Europeans have different standards in judging non—western nations, and Muslim nations in particular, especially when these nations have lots of oil.  What galls the European secularists is that Israel is a Western nation, and still clings to a religious, nationalist tie to its land.

In Europe, there is also great hypocrisy and blindness related to the behavior of Israel's enemies. The secular humanists who say they value women's rights, and gay rights, and minority rights, and the rule of law, and non—violence, and above all tolerance, should be appalled at what goes on in the Arab and Muslim world — the ruthless violence, the commitment to jihad, the oppression of and discrimination against women and gays, the mistreatment and intolerance of minorities, including of course, Christian minorities, the autocratic nature of virtually every regime which substitutes the law of the ruler for the rule of law.

Consider something as basic as respect for holy places. The recent scenes of desecration of the synagogues in Gaza by mobs of Palestinians should give pause to those foolish enough to think that Israel and the Palestinians could live together in peace, if only Israel offered more concessions.

The siege of Israel by its enemies is a fact of life that continues today. This siege is relentless, which appropriately enough, was the title of a documentary film made by the media monitoring group Honest Reporting, that presented in the film an honest report on what happened during the intifada, the sort of report you did not catch on CNN, or the BBC.  For the un—initiated, CNN is dishonest to the point of presenting very different material on the Israeli Palestinian conflict on CNN International than on its US station (more hostile to Israel of course overseas, than the coverage in the US, which is plenty bad enough).

Today the siege of Israel has three primary fronts: in Israel itself, in international organizations, and in the United States.  I will spend most of my time on this siege in the United States  The first target of course is Israel. The terror attacks have not defeated and cannot defeat Israel militarily. But over time, the terror groups and the nations which support them believe that they will soften Israel's will to fight on. The Arab world believes that terror campaigns drove the Israelis out of Southern Lebanon, and now out of Gaza. Hence more terror will drive Israel out of the West Bank. And then more terror will lead to Israeli political concessions designed to produce a single bi—national state. In such a state, the Arabs believe their higher birth rate will produce numbers that will dominate the Jewish population of Israel and sane Israelis will leave for safer pastures. And hence, Israel, as we know it, will be gone. This is Arafat's victory in stages.

Palestinian history since 1948 can be seen as a struggle to rewrite the defeat of the 1948 war, to use their grievance against Israel's creation as a weapon to train new generations to struggle to eliminate the Jewish state. How else to explain the fact that 57 years after the 1948 war, there are still refugees from that war living in refugee camps?  Nowhere else in the world are there such long term multi—generational refugees. And of course, the Palestinians have used the weight of the muscle they have at the United Nations, with all their Muslim nation allies and all the other nations that cower before them and their oil, to have descendants of refugees considered legal refugees as well. So third generation descendants of refugees who have never stepped foot in Israel, now demand a right of return to homes in Israel that they and their parents have never seen.

When I was in the Czech Republic last month, our tour guide was candid about what happened in his country when World War Two ended. In anger over the welcome mat tossed out to the Nazis by the German residents of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the Czechs expelled over two million ethnic Germans in the period 1945 to 1947.  Poland and Russia did the same with their German minorities, another 8 million.  A flood of ten million Germans fled into occupied, defeated, impoverished Germany. These people were largely absorbed by the local population, much as occurred in Texas with fleeing Louisiana residents after Hurricane Katrina.

The German refugees did not spend much time in refugee camps.  Today, none of these people or their descendants will be found in refugee camps, training their children to be suicide bombers to win back the Sudetenland. The very concept is patently ridiculous. They are productive citizens of a successful modern democratic state. Only in the Palestinian territories, is resettling refugees, and letting them get on with their lives, viewed as a defeat. As Golda Meir said, when Palestinians learn to love their children more than they hate Israel's children, then we might be ready for peace. That day is not around the corner.

It is no surprise of course that the propagandists in Hamas and Islamic Jihad are calling the Gaza disengagement a victory for terrorism and the use of violence to win political victories. These groups do not exist so as to better the lives of Palestinians, but to destroy Israel. Arguably, an alternative interpretation is that Sharon and Israel largely won the intifada war, and left Gaza for their own strategic reasons.  Those reasons have to do with demographic issues in Israel and the territories, as well as securing Israel's borders and its population behind defensible lines with the completion of the security barrier in the West Bank. But the Gaza discussion is another lengthy talk in itself. Personally, I find it difficult to play the hawk to Ariel Sharon's dove. He fought in five wars for Israel. I did not.

There is little evidence so far to suggest that the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will have any success in reigning in the terror groups, even if he desired to, which is also an open question.  So far Abbas has talked of co—opting Hamas into the political process, and bringing their armed men into his armed forces.  For now, he says they can keep their weapons, since he does not want a Palestinian civil war in order to establish his authority. So Hamas continues its hate campaign in the mosques and the media, and continues with the rocket firing into Israel, and the killing and mayhem it causes. In but a month, the Palestinians have turned Gaza into a state of nature, of the kind that the philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke described. Abbas says there will be a single armed force after the Palestinian elections. But will he risk a civil war then to accomplish what he is unwilling to do now?

Demoralizing Israel and Israelis is also the focus of the second tier of the siege against the Jewish state — the de—legitimization of Israel in international bodies.  Hence the endless stream of resolutions castigating Israel in the UN. Israel is but one of over 180 member nations. So why are 40% of all UN resolutions aimed at Israel? One might think that Israel is responsible for almost half of all that is wrong in the world if one believed that the UN had its finger placed neutrally on the scale of international justice. But it does not, of course. A once well intentioned organization is now little but a corrupt house of nasty anti—Israel and anti—American posturing, run by the world's worst collections of vicious regimes.

The International Court's ruling against Israel's security fence is more of the same. Only Israel, among the nations of the world, is not allowed to defend its border.  Dozens of nations around the world have such barriers designed merely to keep out immigrants desperate for a better life. These fences bother no one at any international court. But when Israel tries to keep out suicide bombers, that is a problem.

The campaign against Israel in these international bodies, or in international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, or Human Rights Watch, are all designed to lead to a sense of demoralization and isolation for Israelis, the same goal as those carrying out the unending campaign of terror in Israel. Demoralization it is believed, will lead to political concessions, which weaken Israel, and will lead to its eventual collapse.

With Europe having gone over to the dark side, and international bodies stacked against it, Israel must rely on its own resolve, and the support of its one true and constant friend: America. And hence the third tier of the siege by Israel's enemies — the attempt to separate America from Israel.

This campaign has many tentacles, most of them on the political left.  Until the Lebanon campaign in 1982, the media and most of academia in America viewed Israel favorably, as an underdog, an island of Western civilization amidst a sea of regimes run by military thugs or royal autocrats.  But things have definitely changed in these venues. While most Americans continue to support Israel overwhelmingly as compared to the Palestinians, the elites have largely switched sides, and many Americans are getting very tired of the conflict.  Israel is portrayed in the media as the occupier, the aggressor, the army with tanks fighting children with stones. The shamefully biased coverage of the conflict by CNN and NPR and the three major broadcast networks, is carefully documented by groups such as CAMERA and Honest Reporting.

Bad as they are, the BBC and Reuters, and the rest of the foreign press, are worse.  Over time, the biased coverage has an impact. More Americans now believe that both sides are equally at fault for the continuation of the conflict than once did. The language of a 'cycle of violence' has taken hold. Such cycles of course have a beginning, as does every incident of violence, if one cared to report it.

In academia, things have gotten much worse. Here the anti—Israel sentiment is not the soft bias of the major media, but the hard left's hostility to Israel. This reflects the triumph of 60s radicals who are running much of higher education today, and the weakness and cowardice of university administrations, who care primarily about garnering gifts, and protecting those ethnic groups that shout the loudest.  The radicals in academia hate America, so how could they not hate Israel?  The sharp turn in academia against Israel, also reflects the enormous investment that wealthy Arab states have made in establishing Middle East Studies centers at major universities, so as to drum their message of Israel as the bad guy into the next generation of American leaders. Polling by Frank Luntz indicates that the attacks on Israel in academia are working — that at the most elite schools, many students have soured on Israel.  The Palestinians are seen as the victims, and the Israelis as their oppressors.  The larger message is that America will be better liked in the Arab and Muslim world if it only came to its senses and stopped supporting Israel. 

Jews, more than any other group, have always valued higher education— the ticket to the professions, and to full participation in America, and its opportunities. Yet today, universities are a vile hornet's nest of hysterical Israel hatred, where alternative views are not heard or are suppressed (read about what De Paul did to Professor Thomas Klocek for a case study ). A Stalinist mindset is prevalent in many of the humanities faculties in the country.  Diversity of every kind is desirable except intellectual diversity. Yet Jews continue to send large gifts to colleges and universities, many of which are already very wealthy institutions, completely ignoring what these schools have become, and how they are busy at work training future generations to despise Israel. If you want to see the triumph of European political views about Israel in America, visit the campus.    

Then there are the think tanks, also funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which turn out a stream of position papers blaming Israel for America's problems in the Muslim world. These think tanks routinely hire former State Department and other government officials at high salaries, which tends to make government officials more sympathetic to the Arab side of the conflict while they are still at the State Department or other government jobs.

And of course, there are the liberal churches, which share the same progressive social and economic policy agenda as do many liberal American Jews. After all the years of interfaith efforts, one might think these churches would have been a little more cautious about trashing Israel than they have been the past few years.  These churches have relied on the horror stories that are portrayed to them by Christians from their churches in the region, most of them deeply embedded in the saga of Palestinian victimhood, or merely fearful of the repercussions if they did not mouth the Palestinian party line. 

Particularly ominous is the role played by the very well funded Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, in Jerusalem, led by Dr. Naim Ateek.  Ateek has claimed that Israel's government runs a crucifixion system, worked against the Palestinians.   Sabeel and its spokesmen are now on a North American tour, speaking to liberal Protestant churches at every stop, encouraging divestment.  As with the UN and its obsession with Israel, one might ask why with all the places in the world where there are problems or injustice, these churches have chosen to single out Israel.  Particularly foul is how they have ganged up on Israel this past summer, when Israel was making painful concessions to give the Palestinians an opportunity for self rule in Gaza.

The single most dramatic positive development for Israel in recent years in this country has been the enormous support and passion for its cause that evangelical Christians have demonstrated. The President, a born again Christian, has been a great friend of Israel. While Europeans called Ariel Sharon a war criminal, and some demanded his arrest, President Bush called him an ally, and supported his war against Palestinian terror. President Bush refused to meet with Yassar Arafat, an unreformed terrorist thug. He made clear that Palestinian statehood could only come with a real, meaningful commitment to non—violence, a permanent end to terror, and acceptance of Israel. He ordered the US delegation to walk out on the Israeli hate fest at the Durban conference in 2001. Despite this very strong record of support for Israel,  I have been at dinner parties with liberal Jews, who claim they care about Israel, and heard people say they wish Bush were assassinated.

The support of mainstream evangelicals has made a huge political difference, and so far stymied some of the efforts by the left and their Arab and Muslim allies in this country to separate the US from Israel. The left has shown it can change the minds of those who do not believe, those who have no moral guidance other than the values set forth in the New York Times editorial page, but not those who do.  The 70 million evangelical Christians vote, and also frequently lobby their Congressmen not to abandon Israel.  

Much of the credit for mobilizing the evangelicals for Israel goes to Newt Gingrich, who as Speaker beginning in 1994 made support for Israel a critical component of the GOP platform.  Today, support for Israel is stronger among Republicans in Congress than among Democrats.  It is of course critical that both parties support a strong US Israel relationship. Other wise, Israel's fate in the Congress would be subject to which party won the next election.  And for almost 60 years that support has been bipartisan. 

Among Republicans, support for Israel is growing and passionate. For many Democrats, Israel, and foreign affairs in general, are well down their list of priorities. The last few years, trashing the President has often seemed the highest priority for many Democrats, both in and out of Congress. There are of course some strong Democratic proponents of Israel— Tom Lantos of California, Eliot Engel of New York, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Joe Lieberman. 

The great majority of America's Jews live in blue states, and in congressional districts represented by Democrats.  What is remarkable is that some of Israel's strongest supporters in the Congress are Republicans who have almost no Jews in their  district— like Indiana's Mike Pence, or Missouri's Roy Blunt or Senators in states with very few Jews such as  Sam Brownback of Kansas, or Richard Shelby of Alabama.  When the foreign aid bill is considered, or resolutions which support Israel, 5 or 6 Republicans will vote no, and 40—50 Democrats will vote no, a growing number of them African American Congressmen. In addition to communist crackpot Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, there are long term Democratic Congressmen like Jim Moran of Virginia, and John Conyers of Michigan, who are harshly critical of Israel.  

Conyers held a hearing a few months back with a collection of moonbat witnesses on the Downing street memo. One witness started blaming Sharon and the Jews for the Iraq war, and America's dead soldiers, yet none of the 25 Democratic Congressmen in attendance challenged the speaker, including Jews like Jerry Nadler.  The event was broadcast at Democratic National Headquarters, while anti—Semitic fringe groups were handing out literature to those inside.

The Democrats, obsessed by President Bush have moved left, fueled by groups like moveon.Org, and websites like daily kos.  The Anti—Israel hysteria that is part of the hard left has traveled with it. One can certainly have been a principled opponent of the war in Iraq,  but  every antiwar rally I have seen has had a huge number of anti—Israel signs and posters, and speakers as part of them. Why? Why this obsession on the left with Israel? And why this cowardice by the Democratic  establishment in confronting it? Even Michael Lerner, the ultra left Berkeley rabbi is now too far right for International Answer, the organizer of many of the anti—war demonstrations, since he still believes a shrunken Israel has a right to exist.  And yet, members of Congress, all Democrats of course, show up to speak at the rallies sponsored by International Answer and allied anti—war groups. 

Jews need to accept that their strongest allies in defending Israel now are evangelical Christians, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with them on many other issues.  If Israel and its survival is a priority, it make no sense to denigrate, belittle, and mock evangelical Christians. Liberal Christians believe as liberal Jews do on abortion, and the minimum wage, and the Kyoto Treaty, and they also read the New York Times, but they want to divest from Israel, dismantle the security barrier which has saved many hundreds of Israeli lives and care little about whether Israel survives. These are friends? Why are the Jews in Israel, and not Uganda, if the Bible was not part of the story and our history?  Why should we scorn people who take that heritage and link more seriously than most Jews do?

American Jews need to think long and hard about where the survival of Israel stands on their list of priorities. There are significant forces at work, committed to separate the US from Israel, to make the US a 'neutral' country in this conflict, and eventually to behave more like an 'enlightened' country such as France.  If they are successful, they believe Israel's collapse is inevitable. It is upon all of us, our children and our grandchildren, to see that they do not succeed.

*Reader Greg Cogan brought to our attention that it appears that the action by the supermarket chains in Norway against Israeli products was considered but not carried forward. See this site for more details. We thank Mr. Cogan for the information.

Richard Baehr is chief polititcal correspondent of The American Thinker.