Israel, the Obsession

It has been a pretty typical week on the hate Israel front.  A European Union Court has decided that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, and their previous designation as such had not been justified by real evidence that Europeans had developed, as opposed, say, to information supplied by the United States or Israel.  An international court in Geneva is hearing evidence of Israeli human rights violations.  The United Nations Security Council has been considering a resolution developed by the Palestinian Authority, as well as one by the French that would effectively lay out the terms for Israel’s capitulation over the next few years.  Israel’s peace camp has been working with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, encouraging a delay in consideration of the Security Council resolutions, since any action before the upcoming Israeli parliamentary elections could benefit the right-wing parties in Israel.  In other words, there is not even an attempt to hide anymore that the United States is putting its foot down for one particular side in the Israeli election.  Various European countries are endorsing Palestinian statehood on the terms demanded by the Palestinian Authority.  Academic groups, unions, and churches in Europe and the United States are endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.  Certain European communities are now "Israeli-frei” – free of Israeli goods (or at least those they can identify and care to avoid).  The U.N. Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, as well as specific agencies whose only task is to bash Israel, are set to get back to work, creating more resolutions and condemnations of the Jewish state.

As Joshua Muravchik makes clear in his outstanding new book, Making David Into Goliath, this obsession with Israel by most nations of the world and the United Nations – or as they are collectively known, “the international community” – as well as by “the global left,” could not have been imagined a half-century back, prior to the Six-Day War.  At that time, Israel was championed by Socialist political parties, and viewed sympathetically as a beleaguered democracy fighting for its existence against a collection of larger anti-Western Arab tyrannies.  There was residual sympathy for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, many of whom had moved to Israel.  There was no movement for Palestinian nationhood, though certainly violent actions by Arabs aimed at Israel and Jews in the region had been going on for decades.

Muravchik’s book attempts to explain what has happened during this period and why.  A lot changed after the 1967 war, when, instead of little Israel facing off with 21 Arab nations, the conflict was recast with Israel as the big dog, oppressing the Palestinians and occupying their land.  Since the left tends to root for the underdog, Israel no longer fit the bill.  The description of the conflict in the post-1967 telling is of course neither factual nor historical, since there had never been a unique nation of Palestinian Arabs, denied their nationhood – say, the way the Tibetans or the Kurds have been for sixty years, or forever.  The Palestinians became refugees because their leaders refused to accept half a loaf – a state on half of the mandate territory in 1947 – and instead chose to go to war to deny the Zionists their state.  The Arabs of Palestine, even with the support of armies from their Arab neighbor states, lost the war.

When you start a war and lose, there are consequences.

Since 1967, the Palestinians and their allies have been trying to reverse not just the war of 1967, but the 1948 war as well.  Refugees from the 1948 war (and there are not many of them left) are still in refugee camps, unlike any other refugees from any other conflicts then or in the years since, and the descendants of the original refugee population, now from three generations, demands a "right of return” to homes in Israel where they never lived and in fact to a country where they have never been.

The 1948 war produced a population exchange – a larger number of Jews were driven out of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and other countries than Arabs who left their homes in what became Israel.  Most of the Jewish refugees moved to Israel, where in relatively short order they were out of any temporary refugee camps and absorbed as regular citizens of the state.  That the Arabs have sacrificed generations of their own people to maintain their inflexible hatred of Israel is all one needs to know about why there has been no resolution of the conflict despite serious efforts over the years to accomplish this.

Muravchik, who was once a leftist himself, spends a fair amount of time in the book documenting the impact of Edward Said , who with his disciples has mentored the current U.S. president, Barack Obama.  Said, despite his faked personal history, has had enormous impact introducing moral relativism to studies of the regions, declaring that the West cannot understand “the Orient” and has no right to judge the regimes, the religions, the people.  What the West calls a terrorist group is instead viewed as a resistance fighting for freedom.  The combination of mosque and state is what those in the region know and prefer, not Western parliamentary systems.  Israel is not a beacon with much to offer those in the region, but an imperialist creation and a predator.  Muravchik outlines how in Israel itself, a part of the population is at war with Zionism and is in fact in league with Israel’s external enemies, assisting viperish non-governmental organizations (often funded by European nations) and bigoted journalists.  An increasing number of left-wing Jews in the United States behave as if Israel is an embarrassment, claiming that Israel’s behavior is “not in its name” and calling for an end to the “racist, apartheid“ state.

At one time, the United Nations consisted primarily of democracies who had fought the Axis powers.  With the decolonization of Africa and Asia after the war, dozens of new nations, since dubbed “the Third World,” became the dominant block at the U.N., particularly in the General Assembly and other international organizations.  These new nations included many Arab and Islamic countries, and their power in numbers shifted these organizations into full-blown assault forces directed at Israel.  Three quarters of all U.N. General Assembly resolutions that are directed at a single country are rebukes of Israel.  It is fairly obvious that the international community considers Israel the worst country in the world (or at least the closest thing to a piñata for the purposes of diplomatic assault) and has ignored the human rights disasters at play in Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other easy targets, since there is no real interest in fairness, and Israel is always held to a different standard.

The Palestinians and their allies have also scored with the terror weapon and the oil weapon.  One nation after another demonstrated that cowardice was the preferred policy for dealing with Palestinian terror groups, rather than risking confrontation with them, and many nations thought they could buy peace and security by becoming harsh critics of Israel and allies of the Palestinians.  In countries with large populations of Arab or Muslim immigrants, taking on Israel politically, and ignoring violence directed against Israel or threats against Jews, was seen as a safety valve to prevent terrorism and violence directed against such countries’ own citizens.  After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, OPEC, dominated by Arab oil producers, began a more systematic effort to use the threat of cutting off oil deliveries to force changes in policy by oil-importing nations, particularly in Europe.

Muravchik is an honest historian of the conflict, and he documents how Israel contributed to changing the narrative of the conflict.  Some of Israel’s leaders were poor spokespersons for the country.  The invasion of Lebanon in 1982, followed by the attacks carried out by Christian Phalangists in Sabra and Shatila to avenge the assassination of their leader by Palestinians, with Israeli forces seemingly looking the other way, were particularly damaging.  Many Israelis, not all on the hard left, have opposed the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria.  Muravchik makes clear, however, much as Caroline Glick has done in her book The Israel Solution, that to a large extent it is irrelevant what Israel has offered in any peace process to achieve a deal.  In essence, the country has entered a bidding war against itself.

Muravchik has laid out why Israel is now in the dock, facing more critics on more fronts all the time.  But what is most depressing is that there is no clear path back to sanity, nor is there a clear path to the end of the obsession with Israel.  In fact, the momentum is all with those ganging up on the Jewish state.  In the United States, Barack Obama is a president more comfortable with the thinking of the international community than any prior president since Israeli statehood in 1948, and he seems anxious to end America’s isolation on this issue (since it alone has stood in Israel’s corner for several decades) and move American policy so we are more in line with Sweden or Spain with regard to the conflict. 

Muravchik calls for vigilance (Obama will be around only another two years and one month), but with America’s rapidly shifting demography, and the takeover of so many parts of the culture by the left – most of the media, the arts, the universities, Hollywood, many churches and synagogues – the struggle for those who stand with Israel will be uphill.