Rush to madness
by Jonathan Rosenblum
November 7, 2003
Two weeks ago, we discussed the delegitimization of Israel from within by Israeli elites. In this issue, we discuss that delegitmization from without.
Despite the 1991 repeal of the U.N.’s infamous ``Zionism is racism" resolution, Israel’s international standing is far worse today than it was in 1975 when the resolution was originally passed. The 1975 resolution drew almost all of its support from Arab countries and third-world dictatorships.
Today 60% of Europeans, according to a European Commission poll published this week, view Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. A greater threat than North Korea, whose entire economy is based on the export of nuclear weapons technology to anyone with the money to pay; a greater threat than Islamist terrorist, who are now deeply embedded in every Western nation.
Mainstream European statesmen and intellectuals deny Israel’s legitimacy. The question posed by the Guardian – Is the suffering of the Palestinians not too high a price for the humanitarian impulse to grant the Jews a state after the horrors of the Holocaust? – is now asked regularly in one European forum after another. ``Israel no longer has a right to exist," leading British novelist A.N. Wilson announces without hestitation in the Evening Standard of London.
``I no longer feel comfortable in my own country," writes Melanie Phillips, one of Britain’s best columnists, ``because of the hatred that has welled up toward Israel and the Jews. . . . [A]t present it is open season on both Israel and Jews." The political Left in England has captured the intellectual establishment, writes Phillips, and promulgates the view that ``Israel should not exist, that it is a Nazi state and that Jews control America."
There are many reasons for the hatred of Israel in Europe. Europeans live in fear: fear of Arab oil power and fear of growing populations of increasingly alienated and radical Moslem populations in their midst, whom they hope to placate with condemnations of Israel. To these fears must be added guilt over Europe’s colonial past and the cult of victimhood that justifies all violence by those identified as history’s oppressed. These factors have led to a reemergence in polite society of an anti-Semitism not openly expressed since the Holocaust.
In this noxious brew, one more factor has received too little attention: the devaluation of the nation-state in modern European eyes. Europeans today tend to identify nationalism with the two world wars that claimed millions of lives in the century just past. As a consequence, ever more attributes of sovereignty are being transferred from European states to various European bureaucracies.
Zionism, of course, is an outgrowth of 19th century European nationalism. The solution to the ``Jewish problem" – i.e., the suffering of stateless Jews at the hands of Europeans deeply rooted in their own nations -- propounded by Zionism was the creation of a Jewish nation-state on the model of existing European states.
The pride that most Jews in Israel, and many around the globe, continue to feel in the creation of Israel, as well as the constant violence that has attended Israel since its birth make Israel the exemplar of a nationalism now discredited in European eyes. Europeans tend to forget that their own nations were each the product of a long series of conquests and wars in the course of which a linguistic and ethnic identity was fashioned. But that process took place in the nether regions of history. The return of the Jewish people to their land, by contrast, took place within living memory, and the constant war over Israel creation continues to this day.
The ultimate irony, writes University of Chicago professor Mark Lilla in the June 23 New Republic, is that ``once upon a time, the Jews were mocked for not having a nation-state. Now they are criticized for having one."
Typical of that European attitude was Professor Tony Judt’s dismissal of Israel, in the September 25 New York Review of Books, as ``an anachronism." (Judt’s terminology recalled the historian Arnold Toynbee’s similar dismissal of the Jewish people as a historical atavism.) ``The very idea of a `Jewish state’ – a state in which Jews and Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded – is rooted in another time and place," Judt concludes. In place of Israel, he calls for a binational state.
To make his case, Judt portrays Israel today as if it the Greater Israel ideology of settlers in Judea and Samaria, were regnant. Israel’s leaders, as drawn by Judt, following Avraham Burg, are all fascists of exceptional malevolence.
That Judt himself is Jewish no longer occasions surprise. Indeed the discomfiture caused to Jews around the world by Israel is one of his reasons that it should cease to exist. Unkind things have been said to Judt at faculty dinner parties, andaccordingly he would now like Israel to disappear.
What makes Judt’s piece so frightening is that he is not a trendy professor of the far Left. He has written frequently for the ardently pro-Israel New Republic, and his major academic work sharply criticizes the infantile leftism of French intellectuals.
Despair at seeing any end to the Palestinian-Jewish conflict has driven Judt to propose mad solutions. For he surely knows that Jews would soon be demographically overwhelmed in the binational state he proposes, and few would wait around for that to take place before fleeing. His proposal is one not just for the end of Israel but for the end of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.
While European nation states may have generated most of the carnage of the first half of the 20th century, the greatest bloodlettings over the past half-century have been intramural affairs, usually in countries created by former colonial powers in which a multitude of ethnic groups were artificially forced together. Yugoslavia and Rwanda are the two most glaring examples. Iraq is potentially another. And a binational Jewish-Arab state, as any student of the British Mandate knows, would surely be one more.
One would suppose from Judt’s proposal that the Jews of Israel find themselves opposed by exponents of the universal brotherhood of man. In point of fact, Jewish nationalism is opposed by a far more virulent and exclusivist Palestinian nationalism.
Apart from the Law of Return, which has its parallels in the constitutions of many European states, Jews enjoy no formal legal privileges in Israel denied to Arab citizens. By contrast, many Arab states explicitly deny Jews any rights of residence, and the Palestinians have repeatedly made it clear that they will not tolerate a Jewish presence in any Palestinian state that they might achieve.
The fanatical hatred of Jews and all things Jewish aroused in the Palestinians over the life of Oslo make any hope of a pluralist binational state, like Judt’s native Belgium, unthinkable. In addition, the contrasting political development of Jews and Palestinians makes the two groups incompatible in one state. Israel has produced a fully developed democracy, while the primary allegiances of Palestinians remain ones of clan. No Arab state has produced even an embryonic democracy, and there is no reason to think the Palestinians are well suited to be the first.
Judt himself knows that the binational state he proposes would be entirely dysfunctional. As Professor Lilla observes, ``The European fantasy of the future Middle East is not of decent, liberal nation-states living side by side in peace, but of some sort of post-national, post-political order growing up under permanent international supervision. Not Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat shaking hands, but Hans Blix zipping around Palestine in his little truck."
And indeed that is precisely what Judt envisions: the security of Jews and Arabs permanently guaranteed by an international force and the emergence of a new political class among Jews and Arabs alike.
Alas, not a beautiful dream, but a recipe for a nightmare.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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