Why should we care about Israel?
(Note, April 24: the discussion in this entry continues.)
Jim B. writes:
I’m curious: why is support for Israel so important? What is it about this minor country that I, as an American, should care about it more than, say, Kazakhstan? I ask because I honestly can’t figure it out.
I wish Israel no harm, and as far as I’m concerned they should do whatever they need to do to defend what they see as their interests—but I simply don’t see how their interests coincide with ours. If the Arabs managed to push them into the sea, I would consider it unfortunate (and would urge whatever international sanctions could be brought against the aggressors), but ultimately it’s not our business.
Isn’t this excessive interest in the a foreign power what George Washington warned us against?
I guess you haven’t noticed that the whole world—the whole Muslim world, the whole international leftist world—is seeking to destroy Israel, and, as part of that attempt to destroy it, denies it the right to defend itself, e.g., the UN report accusing Israel of war crimes for the incursion in Gaza last year. I guess you haven’t noticed that the whole world is not seeking to destroy Kazkakstan.
Oh, and I guess you haven’t noticed that the very people who say, “We shouldn’t be involved with a foreign country, we should be neutral as to all foreign conflicts,” are also the people who attack Israel, call it a uniquely evil, mean, cruel, and oppressive country, deny it the right to defend itself, and side with its would be destroyers. And it hasn’t occurred to you to say to those people, “Gosh, if you believe that we should have nothing to do with the conflict between the Muslims and Israel, why do you keep describing Israel as the most evil country in the world?”
And you also haven’t noticed that the very people who are the object of my criticism in these recent posts describe the Jews as an enemy people who should be expelled from this country and all countries. Meaning, they don’t want the Jews to exist here, and they don’t want Israel to exist either. Meaning, they don’t want the Jews to exist anywhere. They want to complete Hitler’s work. But you haven’t noticed that. Because you’re just an innocent guy and you’re scratching your head about why we’re concerned about this minor foreign country. You scratch your head about why people like me are defending Israel, which means that I am violating the idea that we should have no involvement with other countries. But you don’t scratch your head about our fellow Americans who are seeking to destroy Israel. It’s only Israel’s defenders you see as violating G. Washington’s neutrality principle, not Israel’s would be destroyers.
Jim B. replies:
You give me all sorts of reasons why Israel is a worthy nation, and it’s foes vile. Fine. If forced to choose, I would choose Israel over it’s enemies. But what dog do we, as a nation, have in this fight? I’m afraid I just don’t see why our foreign policy must be held hostage to interests of this one faraway country.
“So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”
When Alt-Right published the following:
More decisively, even the most out of touch among us are now becoming aware that Israel is an apartheid state dominated by the most extreme religious and ethnocentric factions of the Jewish community. The Palestinians are treated brutally and are dependent on the largesse from the rest of the world.
Did you write to them asking why they show such passionate enmity to a foreign country?
The morally uplifting Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and pretty much the entire organized Jewish community in the U.S., aid and abet Israel as an aggressive, racialist ethno-state, or at least they turn a blind eye to it. Whatever else one might say about it, the Jewish religion does not make Jews into moral paragons or champions of the oppressed. And it certainly doesn’t make Jews into champions of religious and ethnic diversity….
Also, I have to wonder whether you read my previous replies to you at all. You say:
“You give me all sorts of reasons why Israel is a worthy nation,”
I haven’t written a single word about why Israel is a worthy nation. The topic hasn’t come up. The topic has been Israel’s existence, the fact that Israel, uniquely of about 170 countries in the world, is portrayed as an evil country that doesn’t have the right to defend itself from those seeking to destroy it.
If you’re going to misconstrue so badly what I’m plainly saying to you, if you’re going to keep hearing me say something to you that I haven’t said to you, while you don’t acknowledge what I have said to you, you’re not giving me much reason to continue the discussion. How about a little effort on your part to get on the same page with me, instead of sending me a long quote from Washington’s Farewell address, which does NOT address the issue we’re dealing with? As I’ve pointed out before, you are applying Washington’s neutrality principle to the people who defend Israel from those who seek to destroy it, but you don’t apply Washington’s neutrality principle to those who seek to destroy it. Unless you reply to that point and stop applying Washington’s neutrality principle only to one side of the Israel issue, I will have to conclude that you are not engaging in this discussion in good faith.
And here is another sense in which Washington’s admonition in his Farewell Address does not apply to our current situation vis a vis Israel and Islam. Washington speaks of not favoring one nation over others, as that would mean “exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.” The model Washington was thinking of was, of course, the war between Britain and France. The consuming issue of his second term in office was keeping America out of that war. He believed that if America got involved in that war it would be absolutely ruinous to the young and still unformed Republic. The Jeffersonians had a passionate attachment to revolutionary France. Washington insisted on neutrality, and for this, the Jeffersonians (secretly egged on by Jefferson) called Washington a monarchist.
The point is, these were the two leading European countries, the two countries most important to America, and Washington naturally wanted to avoid having any enmity with either of them.
Washington’s astute analysis does not apply to the Islamic world. The Islamic world is NOT an actual or potential friend of ours. The Islamic world is commanded by its god to subvert and destroy our civilization when and if it gains the ability to do so, whether by political subversion, jizyah tax (in the form of oil purchases and other money transfers), immigration, spreading sharia, terrorism both organized and freelance, or other violence. So the idea that we should be completely neutral as between Israel, a country brought into existence by a U.S.-supported UN vote in 1947, a country which just wants to exist, and the Islamic world, which seeks Israel’s destruction, is absurd. Though the whole present political world tells us otherwise, there is in reality no rational possibility of our extending “equal privileges” to Islam as to Israel, or of our being a “neutral negotitating partner” as between Israel and Islam, because that would mean treating equally Israel’s predominant desire, which is to exist in safety, with Islam’s predominant desire, which is to destroy Israel.
- end of initial entry -
If the Arabs managed to push them into the sea, I would consider it unfortunate (and would urge whatever international sanctions could be brought against the aggressors), but ultimately it’s not our business.
If the destruction of Israel by Arabs were none of our business, why would you urge sanctions against the Arabs for doing so?
Also, are you not aware that most of America’s intensified involvement in Israeli affairs over the last 17 years has not been to help Israel, but to push it into the suicidal peace process?
Are you not aware that the more the U.S. is involved with Israel, the less freedom of action Israel has to act in its own defense?
So your Washingtonian model of America having a passionate partisanship for one country (Israel), which angers other countries (the Arabs) is not true. What got America hyper-involved in Arab-Israeli, and thus increasingly angered the Arabs, was not America siding with Israel, but America acting as the peace process broker. The more you try to do for the Arabs, the more angry they get at you. If America dropped the peace process, stood back, and let Israel do what it needs to do to defend itself, the Arabs would be much less mad at us.
Israel is the first line of defense against an Islam whose aim is the destruction of America and all of Western civilization. What happens to Israel will tell us what is going to happen to all of Europe and eventually to America. Israel is today what Charles Martel and Jan Sobieski were in past history. Why should anyone in Europe have cared if Charles Martel or Jan Sobieski succeeded or failed in their defense against Islam? Why do I care if Europe is over run by Third World people and Islam? The answer should be obvious to all right thinking people. May I suggest that Jim B. read “The Israel Test” by George Gilder.
First off, I’m writing to compliment you on your response to Jim B. I also liked how you put Washington’s Farewell Address into the proper context.
One thing I’ve always noticed about paleos (I won’t call them conservatives because they’re not) is that they always bring up George Washington’s warning about avoiding foreign entanglements. So I was wondering if you could explain something to me.
If these paleos are so concerned about avoiding foreign entanglements, why is it they never utter a peep about our dependence on oil. And I don’t mean oil from only from rogue Muslim terror states. But oil in general.
Basically, oil is our life blood. (Is that the correct expression?) For many years, we’ve been at a point where heads of Muslim rogue states can dictate our foreign (and in some cases domestic) policy by threatening to slow production of oil and raise prices. That sure sounds like a foreign entanglement to me. Does it sound like one to you?
The fact is, there’s nothing conservative about these paleos. They’re nothing but Arabist suck-up isolationists.
I don’t know about oil, but the clearer evidence that they don’t believe in the neutral isolationism they say they believe in is the fact that they tacitly support the Muslim world in the ongoing war against Israel. Consider again the Kevin MacDonald statement (quoted above) which Richard Spencer published at Alternative Right. It calls Israel an apartheid, ethno-centric state. The attempt is to delegitimize Israel. This article was published in the middle of the “international community’s” campaign to indict Israel for war crimes for finally entering Gaza last year after enduring three years of constant rocket attacks by Hamas. The “international community’s” attempt is to deny Israel’s legitimacy as a country and thus break down its ability and its will to defend itself. Kevin MacDonald’s and Richard Spencer’s intent is to deny Israel’s legitimacy as a country and thus break down its ability and its will to defend itself. MacDonald and Spencer are at least tacit allies of the Muslim world in the war against Israel. But Jim B. does not write to Richard Spencer and say, “Hey, you’re violating President Washington’s statement that we should avoid siding in foreign wars!” But Jim B. does write to me and tells me that I am violating Washington’s statement. So it appears that Jim B. does not believe in the neutrality principle he professes to believe in. If he did, he would question the anti-Israel paleocons, not just me.
Daniel S. writes:
The ever insightful European essayist Fjordman answers the question at The Brussels Journal: “Why Israel’s Struggle Is Our Struggle, Too.”
Uh-oh, there’s another member of the International League of Divided Loyalties. Will Dennis Mangan accuse Fjordman, a non-religious Norwegian, of “valuing Israel at least as much as he does his own country”?
Dimitri K. writes:
I think, you should not be too hard with Jim B. Of course, all your criticism of antisemites is correct. But Jim B. is not one of them.
You ask, why he does not care about people who attack Israel, but only about those who defend. I hate to say that, but probably it is due to the common level of debate. Attacking any foreign country is considered to be normal and even patriotic, whereas defending is something you must justify. Especially common is the high moral position, when some country is called racist, aparteid, undemocratic etc. Decent is only creating some artificial unrealistic utopian countries like Palestine or Afghanistan, but real countries all deserve to be demolished.
That is the intellectual atmosphere we live in. So, the guy is not to blame, he is just a simple-minded person who sees that your logic does not fit the common pattern.
I did not say and did not mean to imply that he was anti-Semitic. I pointed out that he was only applying the neutrality principle to one side of the debate, and called on him to apply it to both sides. For whatever reason, he declined. Your idea that it’s harder for people to relate to defending a foreign country than to attacking a foreign country may be a partial explanation.
Kilroy M. writes from Australia
I’ve visited Israel once in my life and found it to be quite a beautiful country. The Old City of Jerusalem is a mixture of the 21st century and Lawrence of Arabia. You’ll see people on mobile phones, standing next to camels. You’ll see women selling grain in bags the way they did probably a thousand years ago, while guys sit in cafes typing away on laptops only metres away. But my support for Israel’s right to exist is not founded on sentimentality—it is founded on the simple rational fact that a nation has a right to exist the same way a man has a right not to be assaulted. Our claims to personal sovereignty are meaningless if we don’t claim a nation has a right to its own sovereignty, be it political, cultural and yes, ethnic too. There is no reason at all why Israel should be an exception to this. I once argued online with a guy associated with the Institute of Historical Review who held it against Israel for having “race laws.” Now, I don’t know if it does or doesn’t, and frankly, it’s just not my business. Just like it’s not my business that Saudi Arabia refuses to allow its women to drive. But what the exchange proved is that the anti-Semitic critics of Israel really have a problem with is the fact that Israel is doing exactly what our nations have a moral claim to do, but refuse to do, due to liberalism. My support for Israel is my way of applying my traditionalist principles universally. Their hatred of Israel is genuinely irrational.
Johan V. writes:
Considered objectively and from a purely strategic, “realpolitik” point of view, Jim B.’s question is surely a legitimate one for the average U.S. citizen to ask, and one for which we supporters of Israel need to formulate an effective answer other than simply pointing out Israel’s merits (after all, I’m sure that, say, Iceland has plenty of merit as well, yet no one would fault me for questioning my country’s lending it financial and military support, and I dare say my life would not be worse for Iceland ceasing to exist). For Jews, such as myself, the reason for supporting Israel is obvious, as it is for a growing number of Christians who consider it a religious obligation (Pastor John Hagee seems to be a leading voice in this regard). But for the average American conservative who holds no strong religious convictions (at least not where Israel is concerned) and considers the matter purely from a strategic point of view (or in the light of traditional American isolationism), it is understandable that Israel should evoke no strong passions and compel no expenditure of U.S. money, time or (God forbid) lives in its defense. Hence it behooves us to make a clear and purely intellectual case why Israel matters for the U.S. and its strategic interests—Caroline Glick is currently posting on this topic at her site (www.carolineglick.com), and I suggest that interested correspondents be referred there.
Thank you for your site, which I read with much enjoyment.
But the average American conservative does support Israel and does so not primarily for strategic reasons, but for moral reasons.
I was reading the discussion regarding Israel, foreign entanglements, etc., and I agree with you that the issue is an important marker in many ways.
April 23, 12:20 a.m.
First, with regards to anti-Semitism, I believe that anti-Semitism is something of an occupational hazard for those who deviate from conventional norms on topics of race, religion and nationalism. Once freed from liberal restraints on thinking, it is very easy to make observations that at least at first glance appear to support a MacDonaldesque worldview. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the people who are active in the area are “enriched” with regards to people with MacDonaldesque (or even more anti-Semitic) ways of looking at the world. That is why your analysis of the issue is very important—it explains the facts on the ground (Jewish aggressive liberalism) without resorting to “group evolutionary strategies” designed to undermine the gentiles, etc.
Second, this in turn means that support for (or true indifference towards) Israel is a good proxy for maintaining moral/intellectual integrity in traditionalist politics. Traditionalism, being a marginalized worldview, tends to attract more marginalized people—meaning that the ranks of traditionalists are enriched for iconoclasts, crazies, ruffians, etc. Having people like MacDonald et al as the public faces of traditionalism is always going to repel far more people than it attracts. (Did it help or hurt the BNP and the cause of traditionalism to have a former member of the Nationalist Socialist Movement running for the European Parliament? The answer is obvious).
Third, I have a sneaking suspicion that anti-Israel fervor among some paleos is partly driven by a desire to belong in some sense to the intellectual mainstream, i.e. liberalism. The core reason for Israel being widely detested in the West is that the country is founded on a basis that is incompatible with modern liberalism, i.e., it is at its core an ethno-national project. Sure, U.S. moderate Jews have carved out a nice little unprincipled exception for Israel, but as Chomsky et al. never tire of pointing out, it is unprincipled and an exception. Railing over the “apartheid state” lets paleos take a short intellectual vacation from pariah-hood in the warm embrace of principled liberal thinking.
Clark Coleman writes:
Two decades ago, when I was discussing gun ownership rights with like-minded conservatives online, someone characterized the appeasers (those who wanted to permit “just one or two” new gun control laws to appease the liberals) with an analogy: We are on a big sled, mushing through the Arctic snow, when we hear the sounds of wolves howling as they pursue us. Someone proposes that we throw one of our number to the wolves, who might then set upon that unfortunate fellow and leave us alone. The rebuttal was that they are still wolves, and now they sense weakness, and they will resume their pursuit shortly.
Another contributor said that some of us were more naive than that: “Maybe if we toss someone to the wolves, the wolves will be satiated and become vegetarians.”
Both levels of naivete are apparent in those who propose tossing the Israelis to the Muslim wolves.
An important survival trait is to know your enemies (both who they are and how they think and behave). Those who question our relationship to Israel always, on further discussion, reveal themselves to be naive and ignorant about Islam.
Randy B. writes:
Completely abstracting the Biblical argument (which I support as a Christian). How about the fact that they are historically a friend of freedom, they give us an intelligent and intelligence view into the region of the world that wants nothing more than to destroy us and remove our freedoms? Not only politically, but militarily they are our friends. Since we are not going to drill for U.S. Oil on U.S. coast lines or expand Alaska drilling (which makes us subservient to Arab nations who would love nothing more than to do us harm—if not for the fact that we have made an otherwise uncivilized people wealthy and kings), we had better maintain and support a strong ally in that region.
Trevor H. writes:
I think I am in Jim B.’s camp, so maybe I can elucidate that view a bit more. I think the point for me is that I don’t care very much about Kazakhstan or Israel, and when someone attacks either, I view it just about in the same way. I simply don’t feel any substantial affinity to these people or their mission in life. Israel’s mission is primarily limited to the Jewish people and creating a religious state for them. I have no more of a stake in that mission than I do in scientology or Buddhism. It’s not my culture, it’s not my religion, and it’s not my people.
Therefore, when something negative happens to Israel, my level of concern is just about the same as it would be to any other similarly situated country that I have no affinity towards.
However, in your case, I suspect it’s really different not because of your concerns about Islam, although that may be secondary, but because of your Christianity. I suspect that your religion has given you an affinity to Judaism and Israel that goes beyond intellectual or political considerations. In my case, I don’t feel that. I feel an affinity to the U.S., and to England and Scotland, the countries of my ancestors, but not to most other nations or peoples. And as for the defenders-from-Islam argument, I do believe that Islam would be much less concerned with the West if we simply let Israel fend for itself more.
I also agree with the previous commenter who suggested that countries are criticized all the time—it is the suggestion that we should be concerned—that we should move from not caring to caring in some way—that must be justified. I simply don’t care overly much whether Israel is attacked or defended.
However, because I don’t care that much, I do become concerned when it is suggested that we should support a country with aid and loans and military hardware, and I can’t discern a motivation. Someone must offer me a reason why my taxes should be spent in the aid of someone else’s country, and one with which I feel no particular affinity.
First, my support for Israel’s existence has nothing to do, at least in any immediate sense, with religion. It has to do with these facts: (1) that Hitler had destroyed European Jewry, thus horribly confirming the belief of the Zionist movement that the Jews needed their own country if they were to live in safety; (2) that the coming into existence of Israel, after 2,000 years without a Jewish state, the transformation of a desert into a thriving country, even as its neighbors were seeking to destroy it, was one of the noblest and most inspiring events of the 20th century; (3) that the Muslims, all 1.4 billion of them occupying 57 Muslim majority countries that cover a fifth of the earth, do not accept the existence of Israel, with its five million people in a land the size of New Jersey, and seek as their highest collective aim to destroy her; (4) that the entire continent of Europe actively or passively supports the Muslim anti-Israel campaign, seeing Israeli “intransigence” over the settlements as both the cause of the conflict and as the principal cause of Islamic terrorism generally; (5) that the “international community” is dominated by Muslims and pro-Muslims, accuses Israel of war crimes for defending its people from death, and declares that Israel can only become morally legitimate by making concessions that spell its elimination as a country; and, finally (6) that Jew-haters everywhere, on both the left and right, are tacit or active supporters of the Muslim campaign to destroy Israel.
In sum, the fact that Israel, a country that came into existence in order to supply the Jewish people with a safe haven, is now hated not just by the Nazis, but by much of the world; the sheer evil of this anti-Israel campaign; and the fact that Israel is the first target of the Islamic world, the ultimate goal of which is the Islamization of the whole world—all these things make me come to Israel’s side. To see the whole world ganging up on this one tiny country, acting as though this one tiny country is the main source of the world’s ills (which is exactly what the Nazis said about the Jews, and what Kevin MacDonald says about the Jews), awakens moral horror and moral outrage in me, and a desire to come to Israel’s defense against the monstrous evil that surrounds her.
Your view is quite different. The Nazi dehumanization and extermination of the Jews of Europe makes no impression on you, because the Jews are not English and Scots. The ganging up of the whole organized world against Israel makes no impression on you, because they Jews are not your people. Ok, I understand. Your position is not morally bad. I’m not condemning you for it. There’s nothing that requires you to care about Israel. But I do think your position is narrow and shortsighted. You say you only care about the people with whom you have an affinity, the people of America, England, and Scotland. Does that mean that if the Moslems took over Italy and Germany, you wouldn’t care, because you don’t have an affinity with Italy and Germany? Does it mean that if the Moslems took over France and the Netherlands, you wouldn’t care, because you don’t have an affinity with France and the Netherlands? Would you only start to care when the Moslems took over Britain? But then it would be too late, wouldn’t it? So shouldn’t you care about, not just England and Scotland, but the Western culture and the Western peoples as a whole, since they are all targeted by Islam? And if you care about the Western countries as a whole, shouldn’t you also care about Israel, which is the first target of Islam—Israel, the “Little Satan,” while America is the “Great Satan”?
And let me add this. I know very little about Israel or Israeli culture. I have never been to Israel. I have no personal or family connections with Israel. From what I do know about Israel, I don’t like its statist politics, its aggressively secular culture, its leftism, its endemic naivite about the nature of Islam. I’ve often said that if Manhattan’s Upper West Side (very Jewish, very leftwing) were made into a country, that would be Israel. But Israel is a country that exists. And the whole world is ganged up against that country and trying to destroy it. And I side with Israel against that evil. Is it really the case that your conscience is not stirred, even a little, by the spectacle of the entire cumulative global power of Islam and the left ganged up against that one country?
Posted April 24, 1 a.m.
Steve R. writes:
According to Buchanan, Hitler would have left England alone if they had just let him annex all of continental Europe. If Trevor H. thought Buchanan was right, would Trevor H. think that we should not have financially supported the efforts of the nations of continental Europe to protect themselves from the Nazis?
Gary W. writes:
Before I address the matter at hand, I would like to compliment you on your excellent writing. I discovered your blog a few months ago, and read it as part of my regular blog cycle.
I would like to comment on your post “Why Should We Care About Israel?” Your rousing defense of Israel was, in my opinion, compromised by this odd sentence:
“I’ve often said that if Manhattan’s Upper West Side (very Jewish, very leftwing) were made into a country, that would be Israel.”
I would like to point out two flaws in your statement. The first is that the Jewish milieu of the Upper West Side is “very leftwing.” It is true that there is a sizable leftwing Jewish (and non-Jewish) population there. But there is also a very old Orthodox community, particularly of the “Modern Orthodox” variety, that overall is anything but leftwing. Their presence is very strong, though outsiders may not be aware of it because this group makes much less noise in the non-Jewish world.
In any case, it is laughable to compare the Upper West Side to Israeli society. Surely you know that the majority of Jews in Israel are Sephardic, almost all of whom trace their short and medium-term ancestry to locales either in the Land of Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East. Many of them were booted out of the Arab countries in 1948. Obviously, these people—again, the majority of Israelis—and their culture have as much in common with an Upper West Side leftist as King David has with Rahm Emanuel.
Regarding the rest: Surely you have heard of the Sabra, the native-born Israeli, tough and a bit brusque, but down-to-earth, sociable, and loyal. Raised in a pressure-cooker, war all around, compulsory military service, ongoing religious struggles, a different national crisis every day—say what you will, but this type has more in common with Italians in Bensonhurst or Greeks in Astoria than Jews from the Upper West Side (or with almost any segment of the spoiled American white middle and upper-middle class, for that matter).
And of course let us not forget the Orthodox of all stripes, who are a huge factor on the scene in Israel. Obviously they are not leftwing.
Yes, a leftist minority cabal took over the country. This was possible for historical reasons, abetted by the parliamentary system that fractures power among a multitude of small parties. But this does not alter the facts I have cited, any more than saying that our atrocious Obamunist regime is reason to dislike America, with its “statist politics, its aggressively secular culture, its leftism … ” (pardon me for turning around your language to make a point).
Finally, you wrote, “[Israel’s] endemic naivite about the nature of Islam.” I assure you that the average Israeli knows more about Islam and the Arabs than you will ever care to know. Have you considered the possibility that after waging the defensive battle you so beautifully describe, a state of siege lasting for generations, perhaps a little fatigue might have set in?
To end on a positive note: keep up the good work.
Thank you. I’m glad you discovered the site and find it of value.
I don’t disagree with any of your specific points. I was not intending an overall comparison between the Upper West Side and Israel. I meant something more narrow and specific, and I should have been more clear about it to avoid misunderstanding.
First, I didn’t state my analogy correctly. This is what I should have said:
“Imagine that the Upper West Side was an entire country and it was surrounded by mortal enemies. That would be Israel.”
What I am referring to is the Jewish liberal mentality of being unwilling/unable to recognize the reality of evil and enemies and deal with it and them accordingly. You say the Israelis are tough and realistic and that they understand the Muslims. That (from a great distance) is not my impression.
Item: The Israelis endured year after year of suicide bombings in buses and restaurants before they finally built a fence to prevent people from simply walking into Israel proper from the territories.
Item: After the tough minded sabra Sharon entered office in early 2001, Israel endured a year of escalating suicide attacks and didn’t do anything about it until the Passover bombing in the hotel in Natanha in April 2002.
Item: After Sharon pulled out of Gaza, the Israelis endured three years of constant rocket attacks from Gaza before they did anything about it.
I could list many more. To me, these are behaviors that only extreme liberals would be capable of—soft hearted liberals that don’t want to be mean to criminals and enemies.
Now perhaps the average Israeli in the street is a tough minded sabra or conservative Sephardic Jew and is not a soft liberal. But in politics what counts is the actual leadership that represents a community or a society.
Also, when I was speaking of the Upper West Side, I was of course thinking of the liberal Jews, not the Orthodox.
Gary W. replies:
Thank you for your clarifications. I understand your thinking now.
The examples you give of “behaviors that only extreme liberals would be capable of” are indeed perplexing. But I would urge you to cut the Israelis a little slack. Certainly, the leftist mentality is responsible for part of it. However, one must consider desperation and fatigue. I lived in Israel for thirteen years. I know how it feels. People of great sobriety under normal circumstances threw up their hands when I confronted them about the Oslo Accords, saying, “We have no choice. We’ve tried everything,” etc.
There’s also the strategy of buying time. One Israeli said to me, again at the time of Oslo, “We should get a few years of quiet. Then, if they don’t behave, we’ll go in there and clean it up.”
Believe me, these same people knew full well that if the Arabs invade their town, every single Jew will be slaughtered in the nastiest way possible.
Regarding Sharon, I was also disappointed at his behavior. Don’t forget, though, that he inherited a complete mess from the previous administration. And when a population is demoralized, and there is the type of pressure that is coming from all the mushy liberals around the world, it is not so easy to just push a button and retaliate.
To sum up: Just because the behavior over there looks the same, it is not necessarily driven by the same causes. Some commonality, yes, but far from everything.
Thanks for listening,
“Certainly, the leftist mentality is responsible for part of it. However, one must consider desperation and fatigue.”
I agree completely, and have often said the same. The world’s unrelenting hatred has worn them down. They no longer speak in the ringing moral tones and intellectual clarity of—to go back to ancient history—Abba Eban at the UN explaining Israel’s actions in the June 1967 war. They seem to have no moral energy left. All they can do is hunker down and muddle through.
But I believe that ultimately this comes from liberalism too. The Israelis have internalized the modern liberal view that as the “more powerful” party in the conflict, they are guilty. Also, there was a generation of post-Zionism—Israel’s equivalent of multiculturalism, which denied the meaning and worth of Israeli national existence. The Israelis need to bring back the two things that their belief in modern liberalism has taken away—belief in objective moral truth, and belief in the worth and goodness of their own country. Then they will stop merely muddling through with hunched shoulders and stand up confidently and speak for themselves before the world.
Mark P. writes:
I read your post on defending Israel and I have to wonder … why did you not include the simplest and most reasonable excuse for supporting Israel … that it is a Western country. That is the reason why I support Israel and why it gets the benefit of the doubt in whatever it does. Israel is a part of the family of Western nations that includes the Anglosphere, Europe, Russia, the various Eastern European nations, and the former South Africa.
Agreed of course. That is usually the way I put it, that Israel is a fellow Western country.
An Indian living in the West writes:
My reasons for defending and supporting Israel became clearer (and infinitely stronger) after the terrorist attack on Mumbai.
The murder of the orthodox Jewish couple (who were merely visiting Nariman house in Mumbai—a place which has some history connected with Mumbai’s old Jewish community) for no reason other than the fact that they were Jews (just as Hindus were butchered for simply being Hindus and because that’s what the satanic Koran commands) cleared my mind about what these “true believers” were—monsters who had to be fought and destroyed with ever weapon in mankind’s arsenal.
I urge your readers to read extensively about the attacks of 26/11. They are very illuminating. And after that, Israel’s predicament (and that of many other nations) becomes quite clear.
Great point, I’ve just posted this.
It looks as though you’re another member of the International League of Divided Loyalties.
People are more or less familiar with the the Muslim attack on Bombay. Beyond what you’ve already said, what for you is most significant about the attack as far as understanding the predicament of Israel and other targets of Islam is concerned?
Thanks. I know you’re being ironic. I see no division in my loyalties. My first loyalty is to India obviously, despite all its faults.
But beyond that I wish all civilized countries well. The Israelis are the only civilized country in the Middle East. This is a fact which becomes quite clear when one looks at the facts. To me, the Israelis (despite their suicidal liberalism) represent democracy, rule of law, science, learning, respect for human life and respect for property. These are hallmarks of a civilized country. And in that sense, there is no difference between Israel and Britain or The United States.
We all know that the hard-core “True Believers” want Israel destroyed. But lest we become too comfortable in the fact that Israel is a tiny country whose predicament is not ours, they would like India destroyed too (conversion to Islam by force amounts to total destruction—one way to destroy a people is to exterminate them as the Nazis tried to do, another way is to impose a religion like this which destroys democracy, learning, science, private property and respect for humanity). And if they like India destroyed, they want Europe destroyed too (there are many “True Believers” who remember the failed invasion of Europe by the Arabs and Moors [beaten back by Charles Martel] and the Crusades). I’ve interacted with “True Believers” from time to time, and many told me that one day every human soul on earth will be Muslim. Why? Because the Koran says so. And what the Koran says is the command of their god which they must obey. So by the command of their god, they are impelled to make war on us.
26/11 lit a few light bulbs for me. And, the realisation of its implications was frightening and sent a chill down my spine. There will be various countries that will fight for their survival against the “True Believers” in this century. It may be that in our comfortable present, we do not wish to see that far. But there will be battles that will be fought in Europe, in Israel and in India too—against forces that wish to destroy every semblance of civilization and impose upon it this satanic cult. The very survival of civilization depends upon it. Your way of life, my way of life, that of the Dutch, the Germans, the French, the Italians—all of that hinges on the outcome.
James P. writes:
Mark P. writes:
April 24, 1 p.m.
I have to wonder … why did you not include the simplest and most reasonable excuse for supporting Israel … that it is a Western country.
Unfortunately that means that Israel, like the rest of the West, is suffering from moral and psychological exhaustion—civilizational fatigue, whatever you want to call it—and is infected with suicidal liberalism, which is the source of the exhaustion and loss of self-confidence. I hope Israel can profit from South Africa’s example and realize that surrender brings not peace but annihilation. The choice, to paraphrase Churchill, is between war and dishonor. If Israel chooses dishonor she will get war anyway, and from a far weaker position than if she’d chosen to fight in the first place.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
Having outed myself as a member of the International League of Divided Loyalties (ILDL), I’d like to go ahead and add some thoughts to the “Why support Israel?” thread. I apologize for the length of this note, but it’s been stewing for a week.
First of all, anybody who thinks that it would be a matter of indifference for any country to abandon their closest ally to complete slaughter—setting aside any moral considerations whatsoever, on which reasonable realists might disagree—understands nothing about international relations. Israel literally stands as a symbol of American might and influence. The fact that it survives in the face of the genocidal hostility of the world’s Muslim population is a testament to our power and, more importantly, to our reliability as a strategic partner. If you think that it would not affect our relationship with, say, Japan, to abandon our closest strategic partner in the global strategic center, then you’re a fool who needs to take a few starter courses in international relations. If you think that other, more ambiguous and unstable “partnerships” like the one with Pakistan, will not decisively impacted by our standing back and abandoning Israel to whatever fate its enemies deign for it, then you’re too stupid to comment on such matters at all and should do a little reading.
Secondly, people who describe the annihilation of Israel as a mere “unfortunate” event that they would of course regret, but in which we have no direct stake, is simply ignorant of what Israel is. Israel is not Tibet, for heaven’s sake. The Jews of the Levant are not Falun Gong. Do these people not realize the importance of Israeli scientists in the fields of medicine, energy, military research, aeronautics, and on and on? Do they have so little imaginations as to be incapable of seeing how the world will change forever when Jewish brilliance is erased from the intellectual store of mankind? Are they not aware of the necessity of a Jewish homeland for defending that unending font of achievement? Do they not know how directly their lives are impacted every day by the explosion of productive intelligence unleashed by the formation of an ethnic Jewish state? We have a stake in this because just as whites are slowly being overwhelmed by the Third-Worlding of America, so also the Jewish state is threatened by a tide of foes bent on submerging it in a sea of intellectual and civilizational barbarism. And do they think that, once driven from Israel, Jews will be safe in an ever-Islamisized West?
For that matter, where on earth might we draw the line with Muslim fanaticism, if first we allow Israel to die in a second, fiery Holocaust of Muslim making? Who imagines that the Muslims of Europe will not be emboldened to fight to the last man to see Islam triumphant wherever any Muslim resides, if first they see the West abandon Israel in the face of their wanton bloodlust (and in spite of their gross material inferiority)? I’m a strategic studies buff (having completed my MS in that field), but you don’t have to have made a special pursuit of international security affairs to comprehend the notion that fear, honor, and interest are what drive men to war on one another. American honor, our stature among the nations of the world, is intimately intertwined with the fate of Israel, our best and closest ally. To Jim B. and others like him, who imagine that we can simply quit the field of international affairs without consequence—or, worse, that we really don’t have to choose sides in conflicts that have massive global implications—I would say that you may not be interested in the fate of Israel, but the fate of Israel is very keenly interested in you.
You’d better figure that out, and fast.
Trevor H. writes:
There are some interesting points being made here.
First, I think that the reasons Mr. Auster proposes for supporting Israel are, rather, reasons for feeling sorry for Israel. Persecution and victimization do not really motivate me to defend or support a foreign nation, although I may feel that it’s a tragic situation.
The question of whether Israel is a “Western country” is key, I believe. I do not believe that Israel is a Western nation. I consider it to be a Middle Eastern nation, albeit a quite civilized one. This is a very important distinction for many people, I think, because most of us who even read your blog do feel an affinity with Western civilization and culture, and therefore, with all Western nations, to varying degrees.
The areas mentioned by Mark P., “the Anglosphere, Europe, Russia, the various Eastern European nations, and the former South Africa,” share a common civilizational basis with us. However, I don’t think Jewish diaspora or Israel do. Their culture is not based on Greek or Roman ideas or law. It’s not based on principles of charity or fairness or freedom or individual responsibility in the same way as ours. Their artistic heritage is not part of the Greek/Roman/European-American tradition. Neo-classical edifices would feel quite out of place in Jerusalem, would they not? So I cannot ultimately place Israel as a nation of the West.
I will say that Israel is a modern civilized country based on the rule of law, for the most part. But ultimately, it is a religious state whose purpose is tightly bound up with Judaism, and importantly, Jewish racial (or hereditary) identity.
Certainly, there has been a great deal of cross-over between Jewish culture and ours over the last 2000 years, but they have chosen to remain quite apart from our civilization, while often living amongst us, so naturally I feel their culture to be something quite apart from ours.
I wonder how many people would consider Israel to truly be part of the “West” or part of “Western civilization.” The more I think about it, the more I think this may be the crux of the issue for many.
And I will throw this out there as well—the less we feel affinity towards a culture or nation, the more likely we are to be skeptical of their actions and to wonder about their agenda. I believe this is often the origin of what people begin to call anti-Semitism, rather than anything deeply pernicious. I have been called an anti-Semite simply for wondering aloud whether our interests will always and forever-more be aligned with Israel.
Thank you for this excellent and thought-provoking thread.
James P. writes:
“Unfortunately that means that Israel, like the rest of the West, is suffering from moral and psychological exhaustion—civilizational fatigue, whatever you want to call it—and is infected with suicidal liberalism, which is the source of the exhaustion and loss of self-confidence.”
It seems as though Israel—and a multitude of other civilized nations and communities—are sandwiched between “suicidal liberalism” and Islam. This can be likened to a geological development where small accumulations of a precious metal have been precipitated between huge blocks of metamorphic rock. The metal retains its integrity, while the initially imposing rock weathers to sand, silt and clay. The precious metal is of course represented by those groups that manage to resist both Islam and nihilistic liberalism over time. As in nature, it is an exceptional occurrence.
Trevor H. in his last comment implies that he would care more, or care at all, for Israel if not for the differences he cites between her cultural, religious and racial basis (what’s left?) and those of the traditional West. Somehow I doubt this. The ties that bind have differences and weaknesses at many levels and the closest genetic relatives often exhibit the worst enmity and violence. The recognition of our essential ties with Israel in spite of these differences and its existential relevance is what matters.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
Trevor H. seems to be taking the now-common position that the West is basically Greco-Roman to the core—based, he says, on “Greek or Roman ideas or law.” He seems oblivious to the fact that the forgefire of Western religion is the Jewish Temple, that its religious texts are principally composed of Jews speaking to other Jews, and that its whole notion of the transcendent depends on the Jewish conception of God.
For this reason, I would not be surprised to learn that he thought Christianity is an alien imposition on an essentially pagan European culture, which he defines as “The West.” I don’t know this to be the case, of course. But I would guess that he does not believe Christianity is fundamental to Western Civilization. If that’s not true, I’d be interested to know how he reconciles the idea that Western Civilization is basically Christian with the idea that it is founded wholly upon pre-Christian philosophy and law.
Trevor says that Israel is not a country “out of the West,” and that’s true if one forgets tiny historical details like the Holocaust and Zionism, the fact that it is a democracy with a republican government of separated powers, a suspiciously Roman-looking Executive-Parliament-Judiciary schematic, and so forth. They’re doing an excellent impression of a Western nation formed by a movement that began in the West for reasons having to do with events in the West.
Furthermore, it’s simply false to say that our conception of virtues such as charity and courage are utterly disconnected with that of the Jews—the just war tradition did not begin with Christians serving in the Roman legions, but in Old Testament exhortations placing moral limits on the manner of warfare allowable by God, limits of a sort that were completely foreign to the Romans and had to be imported from elsewhere. Speaking of “Greek/Roman/European-American” civilization as Trevor does is nonsense—what is it that distinguishes the “European-American” from the Greco-Roman? Christianity, of course, which is essentially Levantine.
And obviously, to the extent that Christianity and Judaism are radically divergent, it is true to say Israel is not entirely Western. The ancient religion of the Jews is not an artifact of Western Civilization, the way that Gothic Christianity is, and their origins as a people obviously lie elsewhere. So there is an important sense in which the Jews must always remain a people apart in the West, which incidentally is a big part of the reason Israel exists in the first place. But neither can Western Civilization be imagined without its Judaic component, unless one seeks to re-imagine the West altogether along pre-Christian lines, which is of course what neopagans of every stripe, leftists, and other enemies of Christianity would like to do.
The West is Aristotle and Aquinas, it is Rome and Jerusalem. To deny this is to engage in an act of destruction.
Sage says about Israel: “They’re doing an excellent impression of a Western nation formed by a movement that began in the West for reasons having to do with events in the West.”
Sage says: “But neither can Western Civilization be imagined without its Judaic component, unless one seeks to re-imagine the West altogether along pre-Christian lines, which is of course what neopagans of every stripe, leftists, and other enemies of Christianity would like to do.”
Again, well put.
I would ask readers to compare the intellectual, moral, and civilizational level of this discussion with what one sees at the bio-centric, neo-pagan, and paleocon websites.
James R. writes:
Gary W. wrote re the sabras—actually when he described them, they reminded me most of “Jacksonian America,” a group we’re likely to identify with and in my opinion should. Politically Jacksonians and sabras find themselves in a similar situation as well and arguably of their own making since both the sabras and Jacksonians can be open to appeals to gummint goodies if they get persuaded it benefits them despite their suspicion of government. Hopefully each will wake up from this seduction in time. The sabras may already have, but their existence is still in peril. Jacksonians sometimes seem to follow suit (now is one time) but it hasn’t seemed to sustain itself to the point of actual rollback of any of the things that threaten them. If it does, a Jacksonian-Sabra friendship may prove fruitful on more than just the security front, but across a wide range of issues.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 21, 2010 03:02 PM | Send
On the larger issue, if we’re being told to chose between the company of Joos or anti-semites, I’ll take parthership with Jews and leave the anti-Semites to their alliance with CAIR and Keffiyah-wearing protestors et al. Those are two subsets that deserve each other’s company. They can discuss the finer points of the Protocols together.