Bruce Thornton – Jan 14, 2009
Israel’s fight for survival is not only against Hamas, Hezbollah, and their state sponsors Syria and Iran. Equally formidable, if more insidious, are those in the West whose virulent hatred of Israel imperils her existence. This antipathy among Western academics, commentators, and reporters is itself a reflection of the larger moral and intellectual corruption that endangers not just Israel but Western civilization. The media coverage of the current Israeli offensive against Hamas and its rockets in Gaza bears all the signs of this irrational and incoherent hatred of the only country in the Middle East in which the rule of law, human rights, and political freedom––all the boons we Westerners take for granted––are respected in ways impossible to duplicate in any Muslim Arab country.
Just as with the Lebanon offensive of 2006, the Western media report events in terms of a prefabricated narrative shorn of historical fact and context. In this mythic paradigm, Israel is the neo-colonial, neo-imperialist minion of late capitalism, an outpost of Western aggression and exploitation of the dark-skinned Third-World “other” whose land has been stolen and whose people have been displaced. All the dysfunctions of the West, so this tale goes, such as racism and xenophobia, are expressed in Israel’s treatment of her victims. Hence the mechanisms of Zionist “apartheid” such as checkpoints, walls, restrictions on movement, “refugee” camps, “displaced” persons, and the brutal indifference and “disproportionate” response of Israel’s U.S.-financed military machine. Muslim “terrorism” is explained away as the understandable response on the part of those subjected to this oppression and lacking the resources to fight back. Thus they can be forgiven for being caught up in the “cycle of violence” whose prime mover is Israel.
This narrative is gratifying to those Westerners who think that a hatred of one’s own civilization is a sign of intellectual sophistication. But it’s possible only by dint of massive historical ignorance. Take, for example, the very term “Palestinian,” used as though it referred to a distinct people. Yet the majority of so-called Palestinians are indistinguishable from the Arab Muslims in Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon. The very word itself is from the Latin word for “Philistine,” and was the Orwellian name the Romans gave the region after it destroyed what was left of the Jewish nation that had existed in the region for a thousand years. Later the term was an Ottoman name for an administrative district, and as such was used to describe the Jews who lived there as well as the Arabs.
The current usage of “Palestinian,” then, does not reflect historical reality but rather political propaganda whose purpose is to obscure historical fact, just as the Romans had attempted to erase the Jewish nation. Once the Arab world painfully realized that it could not defeat Israel militarily, it cast the war against Israel in terms that would appeal to Western ideals––as a struggle of national self-determination, an ideal, by the way, alien to Islamic history and ideology. Now those wretched “Palestinian refugees,” who are in fact a creation of the Arab states that refused to integrate their brother Arabs into their own nations, became photogenic icons of suffering used to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of Westerners addled by noble-savage multiculturalism and trite Marxist critiques of capitalism and “imperialism.”
Such historical ignorance crops up everywhere in the thinking of Israel’s enemies. Israel is an “illegitimate” state, even though it was created by the same process that created Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia––the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire that followed World War I, and that was ratified by the League of Nations and then the U.N. The 600,000 Palestinian refugees are an intolerable injustice, yet we never hear a word about the 800,000 Jews expelled by Egypt, Iraq, and other Muslim nations after 1948. Nor are we told why the Palestinian refugees deserve such international concern and outrage as compared, say, to the 1.2 million Greeks whom the Turks expelled from lands that Greeks had inhabited for 2000 years, or to the 12 million Germans kicked out of Eastern Europe after World War II.
“Occupation” of a “homeland” is another of Israel’s crimes, yet no one talks about the Arab occupation of Spain for seven centuries, the occupation of Greece and the Balkans for five centuries, and the continuing Muslim occupation of Asia Minor, Egypt, North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean littoral, regions that were Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian for centuries before they were conquered and occupied by Muslims. And of course, no mention will be made of the historical fact that what today is called the West Bank, the presumed Palestinian “homeland,” is ancient Judea and Samaria, the heart of the Jewish homeland for a 1000 years. Likewise, “occupation” of the holy Muslim city of Jerusalem is another outrage, even though Jerusalem is extensively documented as a Jewish city and holy site dating back to 1300 B.C., and only became Muslim in the 7th Century by violent conquest. And while Israel, after retaking Jerusalem in a defensive war, has allowed Muslims to occupy the Temple Mount and keep the mosque there, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, once the second-most important church in Christendom, is in the hands of Muslim Turks whose ancestors defaced its once-glorious mosaics after the brutal sack of Constantinople.
In other words, historically Muslims have violated, and continue to violate, every principle by which Israel is deemed an international pariah, yet rarely do we hear anything other than perfunctory denunciation of Islamic bigotry and violence. This double standard, whereby the West and Israel are held accountable to principles that are not applied to Muslims, partly accounts for the moral incoherence of Israel’s Western critics. Hence to Israel’s critics, the inadvertent deaths of non-combatants resulting from Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens are condemned more vehemently and obsessively than the deliberate murder of women and children by the Arab jihadists. These terrorists, moreover, use their own people as expendable propaganda assets precisely because they have taken the measure of the Western media, which can be depended upon to provide inflammatory coverage of Palestinian suffering without providing the moral context that identifies who is responsible for that suffering.
This failure of Western moral and historical intelligence represents the greatest danger to Israel’s survival, and it exposes the fatal weakness of the West––a loss of confidence in the very values and beliefs that have created the ideals, such as freedom and human rights, without which life is intolerable.
Bruce Thornton is the author of Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Books).