June 10, 2010
Israel, the World's 'Dirty Harry'
With the recent "peace flotilla" incident, we have yet another Arab-Israeli dust-up. It's been going on as long as I've been alive, and we can expect "more of the same" for the foreseeable future.
I reflexively side with Israel -- every time. Why do I, though? I am not a Jew. I don't know many Jews, either. I have a couple of Jewish acquaintances, but no close Jewish friends.
What about national security? For all the talk we hear about how Israel is an "ally" of the U.S., the fact is that we have no American military bases there, and American troops have never fought alongside Israelis in any of the numerous Arab-Israeli wars. Unlike Muslim Turkey and Muslim Albania, Israel is not a member of the NATO collective-security alliance. And of course, Israel has no oil to sell us, unlike the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, both of whom we have fought to defend.
So why support Israel? When I was a kid in the 1970s, the Arab-Israeli conflict was front-page news just about all the time. Back then I didn't really understand what the whole thing was about. But one thing became perfectly clear: the Israelis were very tough, very cool, and very professional, and the Arabs were lunatics.
I remember the unshaven, unkempt Yasser Arafat, strutting around with his sunglasses and his keffiyeh, and the weirdo Moammar Qaddafi, with his Bedouin robes and his tent in the desert, and thinking "these guys are insane." The Arab leaders were like comic-book stereotypes of crazed villains -- Saddam shooting rifles off a balcony in front of a cheering mob, swarthy Saudi sheiks dressed in robes and sunglasses riding around in limousines, and secretive, sinister goons like Syria's Hafez Assad. The "Arab street" always seemed full of mobs chanting about whom they wanted to kill and gunmen dancing, ululating, and firing AK-47s into the air.
By contrast, news reports of the Israelis always showed articulate politicians in well-tailored suits and sober, disciplined IDF officers in crisp uniforms explaining the "security of Eees-rael" in detached, rational tones while giving the camera that "better not screw with us" look. You had to admire a tiny little country that was surrounded by enemies, outnumbered, and attacked on numerous occasions -- and didn't merely win, but pasted 'em every time. Israeli leaders like Menachem Begin and Moshe Dyan were tough, tough hombres.
The Arabs always seemed to pull the craziest stunts without any real purpose -- like the masked assassins killing the Jews at the Munich Olympics, or the hijacking of the Air France flight to Entebbe, Uganda in 1976. What people in their right mind would have an obese cannibal like Idi Amin for an ally? The Palestinians sure did. Yet the Israelis managed to win that skirmish, too, with a breathtakingly spectacular commando raid that was a model of competence, intelligence, and daring.
I began to admire Israel the way I admire Switzerland. What was the only country in Europe that Hitler was afraid to attack with his mighty blitzkrieg? Not France, not Britain, not the USSR -- but Switzerland, a tiny nation of watchmakers and chocolatiers where everyone would come out shooting if the country were ever invaded.
One thing has certainly changed since the 1970s, however. Back then, it seemed that criticism of Jews was forbidden. Any time someone made a remark even tangentially disparaging of Jews or Israel, it would take about ten seconds for the Anti-Defamation League to accuse the critic of being a crypto-Nazi and a nascent Hitler. Now, it seems that the Left denounces Israel regularly and celebrates the Arab crazies.
Why has the Left turned its back on Israel and sided with the Palestinians? The same reason, I think, that "urban culture" is celebrated in affluent suburbs. It's "radical chic."
It's cool to wear baggy pants and listen to rap songs about pimps, "hos," and gangbangers, so long as there are no actual prostitutes, no graffiti, and no gang warfare in your neighborhood. It's the same reason that the cultural Left celebrated Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice, in which he wrote that rape was "an insurrectionary act." Fine and dandy in an English Lit seminar at UC Berkeley, so long as ol' Eldridge wasn't raping you or your sister or your mother. It's the same reason Jane Fonda could go to Hanoi and talk about how wonderful "Uncle Ho" and the North Vietnamese communists were -- she didn't have to spend the next twenty years in a "re-education" camp. Communism sure is grand when you can hop a flight back to the U.S. and eventually marry a billionaire. It's the same reason that Leftists tote pictures of Che Guevara and admire Fidel Castro -- none of them actually had to face the prospect of Comrade Che putting a bullet in the back of their head in the basement of a prison in Havana.
I suspect this explains why Barack Obama is so contemptuous of Israel and so solicitous of the Arabs. Back in the '70s and early '80s, he was sporting a 'fro, getting high, and getting "down with the brothers." As he wrote in his memoir, he consciously sought out black radicals and Marxist professors.
A good measure of the dividing line between supporters of Israel and opponents of Israel is how you react to Dirty Harry. Remember the classic 1971 Clint Eastwood flick? A crazed serial killer terrorizes San Francisco. The craven politicians want to appease the killer's demands for ransom, and the media denounces the police for "brutality." But Inspector Callahan, Eastwood's character, cuts through all the crap and coolly blows the scumbag away with his .44 Magnum. Score: Civilization 1, Perp 0.
In my view, Israel is the world's Dirty Harry. For the Left, Israel is "The Man." Israel has become "The Establishment." Israel is like "the pigs," and the flotilla incident another "bust."
If you prize civilization and oppose anarchy, you support Israel, even if it has to utilize Inspector Callahan's methods. Israel is the Hadrian's Wall of the West -- on the other side of it, civilization ends. Anyone who were forced into exile and had the choice of going to Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, or Tel Aviv would be out of their mind to choose anything but the last one. But that's not a choice that anti-Israel partisans on the Left actually have to make. Like Jane Fonda on that machine gun in Hanoi, they'll never really have to live there. So they can afford to adopt a pose, an affectation, supporting Israel's enemies. In the short run, it won't affect them adversely.
But the Israelis have no such luxury. And in the long run, the rest of us have no such luxury, either.