Fearing for Israel

I am coming to fear for the fate of Israel. Iran and Syria, through Hezbollah, are testing the world to see whether they can, in the dream of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wipe Israel off the face of the map. And the world is not responding. Oh, we’re hearing calls for a cease-fire — which leaves Hezbollah still rewarded for its aggression — but even so, no one is stepping up to stand in the way of that fire. From much of Europe and the American left, we’re hearing talk about Israel’s “disproportionate use of force” in what I think is just the PC way to oppose Israel.

Hear David Rowan, editor of London’s Jewish Chronicle, in The Times of London:

Had Hezbollah’s two main sponsors cast any doubt on their determination to wipe Israel off the map, maybe the current military onslaught would have been less acceptable to the 80 or 90 per cent of Israeli voters who last week offered Olmert their backing. Yet for all Olmert’s bold pledges to “destroy every terrorist infrastructure everywhere”, if his military commanders continue to act with only American and wavering British governmental support, while showing the world too little apparent concern for Lebanese civilian deaths, the worry here is that he will only weaken further his nation’s strategic interests, and its longer-term security, as fashionable discourse from talk show to dinner party questions ever more openly Israel’s moral right to exist.

Let that last phrase echo for a moment: “fashionable discourse from talk show to dinner party questions ever more openly Israel’s moral right to exist.”

The reason Israel must exist is Europe. I am delighted to see Timothy Garton Ash say just that in an eloquent and wise column in today’s Guardian.

Yet observing European responses to the current conflict, I want to insist on Europe’s own strong claim to be among the earliest causes. The Russian pogroms of 1881; the French mob chanting “à bas les juifs” as Captain Dreyfus was stripped of his epaulettes at the École Militaire; the festering anti-semitism of Austria around 1900, shaping the young Adolf Hitler; all the way to the Holocaust of European Jewry and the waves of anti-semitism that convulsed parts of Europe in its immediate aftermath. It was that history of increasingly radical European rejection, from the 1880s to the 1940s, that produced the driving force for political Zionism, Jewish emigration to Palestine and eventually the creation of the state of Israel. . . .

Does it follow that Europeans have a special obligation to get involved in trying to secure a peace settlement in which the state of Israel can live in secure frontiers next to a viable Palestinian state? I think it does. . . . Even if you don’t accept this argument from historical and moral responsibility, Europe’s vital interests are plainly at stake: oil, nuclear proliferation and the potential reaction among our alienated Muslim minorities, to name but three. . .

How Europeans speak and write about the position of the Jews in the region to which Europeans drove them is also a matter of our own self-definition. We should weigh every word.

If we — Americans and Europeans, liberals and conservatives — allow Israel as a safe haven and as a nation to be destroyed, whether by ceaseless terrorism or by Iranian nuclear bomb, and if we allow the world to continue to be terrorized by the fanatics who now attack not only Israel but also other nations, then this will be the shameful legacy of our generation.

: LATER: I know it may be red meat to some of you, but see also John Podhoretz’ column this week on PC war:

What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?

What if the universalist idea of liberal democracy – the idea that all people are created equal – has sunk in so deeply that we no longer assign special value to the lives and interests of our own people as opposed to those in other countries?

What if this triumph of universalism is demonstrated by the Left’s insistence that American and Israeli military actions marked by an extraordinary concern for preventing civilian casualties are in fact unacceptably brutal? And is also apparent in the Right’s claim that a war against a country has nothing to do with the people but only with that country’s leaders?

Can any war be won when this is the nature of the discussion in the countries fighting the war? Can any war be won when one of the combatants voluntarily limits itself in this manner?

Could World War II have been won by Britain and the United States if the two countries did not have it in them to firebomb Dresden and nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? . . .

s this the horrifying paradox of 21st century warfare? If Israel and the United States cannot be defeated militarily in any conventional sense, have our foes discovered a new way to win? Are they seeking victory through demoralization alone – by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing we will fail?

Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization – its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all – is endangering the future of our civilization as well?

Haven’t we learned that the other side — those extremists — use what’s best about us against us? Haven’t we learned that we have a common foe?

: And someone just told me to look up a column by Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, that appeared in the New York Observer more than four years ago warning harshly of the second Holocaust. Here is a quote from an edited version that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle:

We have to examine the dynamic going on in the mind of Europe at this moment: a dynamic that suggests that Europeans, on some deep if not entirely conscious level, are willing to be complicit in the murder of the Jews again. . . .

And so there is a need to blame someone else for the shame of “European civilization.” To blame the victim. To blame the Jews. The more European nations can focus one-sidedly on the Israeli response to terror and not to the terror itself, the more they can portray the Jews as the real villains, the more salve to their collective conscience for their complicity in collective mass murder in the past. . . .

If Israel were to act with true ruthlessness to end the suicide bombings, they would tell the prospective bombers – who go to their deaths expecting that their families will celebrate their mass murders with a subsidized party and reap lucrative financial rewards courtesy of the Saudis and Saddam – that their families instead will share the exact same fate of the people the bombers blow up. That might put a crimp into the recruiting and the partying over dead Jewish children. But the Israelis won’t do that, and that is why there’s likely to be a second Holocaust. Not because the Israelis are acting without restraint, but because they are, so far, still acting with restraint despite the massacres making their country uninhabitable.

Rosenbaum wrote a followup column in this week’s March in the Observer.

: And now see Howard Kurtz contemplating why liberal bloggers seem to be saying so little about Israel.