Anti-Israel fervor in America still has a long way to go to catch up with that in Europe. Popular opinion in America, for instance, remains largely sympathetic to Israel. No one would make that claim for Europe.
No mainstream American paper would publish a screed like that of Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder in Norway’s Aftenposten, which employed ancient anti-Semitism canards to attack Israel and deny its right to exist. Gaarder berates Israel for failing to accept Christianity’s humanitarian message and for clinging to the primitive law of "an eye for an eye." He appears unaware that Jewish history might have given Jews some cause to doubt the sincerity of that humanitarian message, and does not know that lex talionis is not Jewish law.
Gaarder berates Israel for treating its citizens’ blood as redder than that of Lebanese – as if there were any nation in the world that does not view its first duty as the preservation of the lives of its citizens – and lays the blame on the "ridiculous" idea that Jews are G-d’s Chosen people.
While it is doubtful that any major American paper would publish an opinion piece invoking so many classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, and attacking Israel in specifically religious terminology, such views are being expressed in America. On the angry Left blog sites, which play an ever larger role in Democratic Party politics, attacks on Jews are commonplace.
After spending several months campaigning for Senator Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut, Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton, revised his lifelong view that intolerance and hate-speech are more likely to be found on the Right. In a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Davis provided a sampler of the anti-Semitic attacks on Senator Lieberman posted on some of the most widely read and influential Democratic blog sites.
Lieberman was accused of supporting the war in Iraq so that American soldiers, not Israeli ones, would die. One post on Daily Kos, the most influential Democratic blog, read, "Jews only care about the welfare of other Jews . . . Ignore all the Jewish propaganda about participating in the civil rights movement of the ‘60s." Another Daily Kos reader described Lieberman as a "racist and religious bigot." And a reader at Huffington Post opined that Lieberman "cannot escape the religious bond he represents. His wife’s name is Haggadah or Diaspora or something you eat at Pesach." Yet another blogger made fun of the beard Lieberman grew during the Three Weeks, and suggested that he dye it "blood red."
Venomous caricatures of Israel as the new Third Reich have long been standard fare in respectable papers in Europe, but the migration of such views across the Atlantic is deeply worrying, if only because America is Israel’s one absolutely indispensable ally.
A deep ambivalence towards Israel has infected the Democratic Party, which many political analysts are currently projecting to take over one or both houses of Congress in the next elections. A recent Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll comparing voter attitudes on the war in Lebanon and towards Israel shows Republicans to be far more supportive of Israel than Democrats. Though the Democratic Party is the political home of the vast majority of American Jews, 54% of Democrats advocate that the United States adopt a more neutral – i.e., less pro-Israel – stance to the Middle East, as opposed to only 29% of Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans felt the Israeli bombing in Lebanon was fully justified, as opposed to only 29% of Democrats.
Increasingly, mainstream Democrats are adopting the attitudes of the European Left. In the recent Senate hearings on John Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic standard-bearer, repeatedly criticized Bolton for the fact that America is consistently the odd-man out at the United Nations, and stands outside the consensus of our European "allies."
One shudders to think where Israel would be if the United States ceased to be the "odd-man-out" at the U.N. Recall that six of those so-called European allies, including France, voted in favor of a resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Commission specifically legitimizing terrorism against Israeli citizens to further Palestinian liberation. Bolton’s U.N.-skepticism is a welcome antidote to the European view that only legitimate use of force is that sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council. That is especially true given that most of the resolutions passed by that august body are condemnations of Israel, and its Secretary-General barely conceals his visceral animus for Israel, while being only to happy to be photographed together with Hassan Nasrallah.
INCREASINGLY, THE AMERICAN LEFT shares with its European counterparts a naïve Enlightenment belief that all problems can be solved by rational men around a conference table. In that view, there are no irreconcilable goals; all men are basically interested in increasing their allotment of material goods, and all conflicts can be resolved by slicing the pie slightly differently.
In this happy world, talk is always good, and military action is always bad. On a recent BBC Hardtalk program, the supercilious British interviewer kept haranguing Binyamin Netanyahu about the necessity of a ceasefire and a political solution. (Netanyahu’s restraint in not wiping the smile off his face seemed to this viewer almost superhuman.) It never occurred to the BBC interviewer that there could be circumstances in which defeating an enemy must precede talk. And he chided Netanyahu for constantly reminding him of how ruthlessly (and rightly) the Allies in World War II pursued a policy of unconditional surrender against Germany and Japan.
The automatic rejection of the use of force explains the obsession of the Europeans and The New York Times with body counts in any conflict – whoever kills the most is automatically the bad guy, regardless of who started the war. It was left to Netanyahu to point out to another BBC interviewer that Germany suffered more casualties in World War II than America and Britain combined, without its superior moral position being thereby established.
Terms like good and evil, when applied to nations, fill liberals with disgust because they suggest that there are nations that seek more than incremental goals – like imposition of Sharia on infidels around the world, for instance. The liberal worldview cannot comprehend why a nuclear Iran would be any less deterred than the FSU by mutual assured destruction. Liberals simply cannot credit the impeccable religious logic of the late Ayatollah Khomeini (quoted in Iranian textbooks) – either we will annihilate the infidel powers and become free or we will die trying, and go to the greater freedom of martyrdom – as being serious. And the mindset of a young British-born Muslim couple who planned to blow up a passenger plane by igniting their infant’s baby formula is beyond them.
This sterile vision of all men as pursuing limited goals as rational game-players leads to consistently downplaying the importance of will in affairs of state. In 1938, Europe chose to believe that Hitler, ym"Sh, would be satisfied with the Sudetenland, and failed to recognize that he was testing the will of the West before embarking upon his plan for world conquest. Similarly, Nasrallah tested Israel five months after the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon with the kidnapping of three soldiers, and was astounded by the meekness of the response. That weak response proved to be disastrous for Israel.
Those who assume that all grievances can be assuaged will inevitably fail to comprehend the jihadists’ all-consuming rage or to recognize that they terrorize the West, not because they have some demands that can be negotiated, but because terror is the only thing that they do well and that provides them with a sense of power. Westerners would prefer to believe that if only the Israeli "occupation" ended – or in the worst case, the mistake of Israel’s creation reversed – that Islamic rage would disappear, just as they once hoped that Hitler would stop with Czechoslovakia.
People who believe such things are a long-range danger to themselves. But they are an immediate danger to Israel. Let us pray that the American Left does not follow its European counterparts in that direction.
A shorter version of this article appeared in Ma'ariv, August 29, 2006.