By Bruce Thornton
February 4, 2013
After watching Chuck Hagel’s embarrassing performance in his confirmation hearings, I can’t decide if he’s a bigot, a paleocon isolationist, or just plain stupid. I suspect the latter, given his statement, “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.” More significant is the fact that he was nominated at all, given his record of gaffes, his use of anti-Semitic tropes like “Jewish lobby” (used only once “on the record,” he assures us!), his indulgence of the genocidal Iranian regime and its nuclear arms ambitions, and his endorsement of American guilt and global retreat.
But the most important dimension of Hagel’s foreign policy beliefs is his obvious distaste for Israel, evident in a catalogue of public statements over the past decade. He has consistently indulged the specious moral equivalence that refuses to acknowledge Arab hatred of Israel and Palestinian terrorist violence as the root causes of the conflict, refused to support condemnations of Palestinian terrorism and terrorist organizations, blamed Israel for lack of progress in the so-called “peace process,” and decried the malign influence of the “Jewish lobby” on American foreign policy. Yet all these positions are ones with which Obama is comfortable. That’s why he nominated such an unprepared, inexperienced blowhard to run the Pentagon.
Obama’s hostile attitude towards Israel, though, is part of a much larger phenomenon: the decades-long demonization of Israel by Western democracies far in excess of any condemnations of the slaughter, ethnic cleansing, torture, invasions, and occupations that have marred the 65 years Israel has fought to survive against a surrounding fanatic enemy whose collective population outnumbers hers 30 to 1.
Why so many in Europe and America should dislike a Westernized liberal democracy in a region hostile to the West will be a future historical conundrum. It can’t be that Israel is an “illegitimate state” carved out from the land of others to whom it justly belongs. In fact, Israel came into being by the same process that after World War I created a whole slew of new countries out of the remnants of the defeated Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Israel actually has a better claim to its existence, having been created by the U.N. rather than by the whims and national interests of the Allied victors. Nor was the land that became Israel an Arab “homeland.”
For 3 millennia Jews continually inhabited what today is Israel and Judea and Samaria, the so-called “West Bank,” a fact of history documented in historical texts and archaeology. Beginning in the 5th century B.C. that territory was serially occupied and colonized by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. Most of the Palestinian Arabs who lived there were the descendents of conquerors, colonists, and immigrants. Few of the new countries created after World War I to recognize “national self-determination” has a better historical claim to its existence than does Israel.
Or maybe the cause of complaint is the 600,000 “Palestinian refugees” displaced by the 1948 war? Leave aside the fact that most fled when the Arab leadership abandoned them or counseled them to leave in advance of Arab armies. The wars of the 20th century created much larger population transfers and refugees, the sad wages of nations engaging in war and losing. The 1922 Ionian revolt of ethnic Greeks against the Turks––a war the Greeks fought to recover lands their ancestors had inhabited for 2500 years before they were conquered and occupied by invading Muslim Turks––created 1.5 million refugees who had to leave their property behind, for which they were never compensated.
After World War II, about 12 million ethnic Germans were kicked out of countries their ancestors had lived in for centuries, with as many as 2 million perishing. And don’t forget the 800,000 Jews expelled from countries like Egypt because of Muslim fury over the creation of Israel, or the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East that has created hundreds of thousands of refugees. Given that historical context, what makes the 600,000 Arabs deserve such obsessive concern?
As for the dismal conditions in which most Palestinian refugees live, lay that at the feet of their brother Muslims, who have refused to integrate them as full citizens of their nations, unlike all those other refugees, most of whom were welcomed into new homelands. The predicament of the Palestinian refugees, then, is not the fault of Israel, but of the Arab states whose hatred of Jews compels them to keep their fellow Muslims in misery so that they can be propaganda tools––a tactic abetted by the obsessive attention of Europeans and Americans, as well as by the money doled out by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the only U.N agency devoted to just one of the many groups of refugees created since 1945.
“Occupation” is another canard used to justify hostility to Israel, even though their country encompasses only part of their ancestral homeland. It’s a strange logic whereby a people creating a country in a land they lived in for 3 millennia are deemed “occupiers” living in “illegal settlements.” This charge is particularly despicable coming from Muslims, a people who have been one of history’s most successful conquerors, colonizers, and occupiers. We could talk about the 4 centuries of Muslim rule in southern Italy, the 7 centuries in Spain, the 5 centuries in the Balkans, and 4 centuries in Greece. Then there are the contemporary occupations that we never hear about from the permanent international demonize-Israel cabal. When’s the last time we heard about the Turkish Muslim occupation of northern Cyprus since 1974? Northern Cyprus was 80% Greek when the Turks invaded. A third were forced from their homes and replaced with Turkish Cypriots from southern Cyprus. Turks from Anatolia have been sent to Cyprus to occupy the homes of the ethnically cleansed Greeks.
Hundreds of churches have been vandalized and destroyed, Greek clergy assaulted, icons stolen, and mosaics and frescoes removed. Yet even as the world frets over Israeli “settlements” in their ancient homelands of Judea and Samaria––all the while Muslim holy sites are protected by Israel and allowed to be managed by Muslims––Turkish invasion, ethnic cleansing, occupation, and destruction of Greek Cyprus’s cultural and religious heritage are met with international indifference.
Finally, if “occupation” is such a crime, where’s the outrage over the continuing Arab “occupation” of Egypt and North Africa? These were territories populated by indigenous tribes, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians for centuries before the coming of the Arabs. Most of those original inhabitants have left, converted, lived as dhimmi, or, as is happening to the Christian Copts under Muslim Brotherhood rule, are being persecuted and driven out.
The fact is, any Arab living outside the Arabian Peninsula is the descendant of conquerors, colonizers, occupiers, and immigrants. This is the dynamic of history, sadly unexceptional. Yet we are to think that a legitimate nation whose people live in its ancestral homeland and its historical capital is somehow a unique evil guilty of an unprecedented historical crime.
By far the most despicable charge used to rationalize attacks on Israel is that the Israelis brutalize and oppress Palestinians. This charge is hard to square with the fact that since the so-called West Bank has been controlled by Israel, all indicators of well-being have improved for West Bank Arabs, who enjoy life expectancy, income, and educational attainment higher than their brothers in Egypt, Syria, Algeria, and Morocco. It forgets that Israeli Arabs are the most prosperous, politically free Arabs in the Middle East. The checkpoints, security wall, and other defensive measures Israel must take for the security of her citizens are all made necessary by decades of Palestinian terrorist violence against civilians, a cult of death taught to children and reinforced by schools and popular culture. Even so, fellow Arabs have killed more Palestinians than Israelis have while defending their citizens. And considering the 20 million people killed between 1945-2000 in wars, civil wars, and ethnic cleansing, it is passing strange that the international community obsesses over the 8,000 Palestinians killed as a result of Israel’s attempt to defend her people.
By any fair historical and moral standard, then, Israel doesn’t even register on the scale of global tyranny, oppression, and violence. Israel’s status as a pariah state reflects something else: the historical ignorance, moral idiocy, and irrational bigotry all evident in Chuck Hagel’s statements about Israel for the last decade. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel will reliably execute Obama’s policy of marginalizing Israel by obsessing over “settlements” and a “two-state solution” that the Palestinians for 50 years have shown no interest in other than as a tactical tool for pursuing its true goal––the destruction of Israel. In a region slipping ever farther into the control of anti-liberal, anti-American Islamist regimes, this demonization of Israel endangers not just our staunchest regional ally, but our own security and interests.