Rarely do I post anything on politics and international misbehavior, which is always rampant, and therefore, hard for me to dissect. The recent Israeli entree into Lebanon again is grotesque. The hundreds of people who are dying there are dying in vain. Israel will not solve the persistence of its Arab neighbors’ hatred through bombing.
Then there’s the but(t). Israel is, was, and always has been stuck in an international milieu in which very wealthy Arab countries support tyrannical governments that prevent cultural, social and political developments from developing internally. People who live in Israel’s neighbor countries, including Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and further places like Iraq and Iran and Qatar and UAE live at the whims of their rulers. Israel, because of its birth amidst the destruction of European Jewry, is held to a Western standard that these other countries are not. And so, again and again, Israel is condemned, scorned, hated and villified because it needs to defend itself. The country, which is the size of the state of Delaware, is held together by raw history, American support, and sheer luck, not necessarily in that order. And the country does horrible things, no question, like every country has ever done. But, as Rex Murphy points out in his editorial in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, no other country is required to live among neighbors who constantly threaten to run it into the sea.
Would Pakistan, constantly threatened by Indian military prowess, allow India to lob missiles over its border and not take any action? Would Pakistan allow a militarized Hindu terrorist organization to sit on its border and not demand that India reign in the “revolutionaries”? Would Pakistan sit down and talk with Hindu revolutionaries if they refused to even acknowledge its very existence? Doubtful.
The point is that it’s all too human to criticize Israel for being a proxy, a stepchild of the United States, a progressive democracy amidst totalitarian Islamic states, or a Jewish religio-state. (No other country in the region has 20% of its population not belonging to the country’s dominant religion, by the way.) Israel and its actions are constantly headlined in every newspaper in every country not because its actions are that disproportionate or overwhelming or even interesting. Israel is simply held to a hypocritically higher standard of justice so that anti-Semtism can be psychologically, liminally or politically legitimated. In this way, countries can vilify Jews generally, condemn them to non-state status, relegate them to another historical dustbin, or otherwise hope for their demise. It’s a 5000 year old and excitingly baneful aspiration of world culture that drives the (admittedly sad headlines): Delete the Jews and the world will suffer less.
Rex Murphy says it better in his “A doctrine of cruelty and folly”:
Proportionality, as the word is currently understood, appears to me, anyway, to be a kind of code. The state of Israel is allowed now and then to respond to those who are unlawfully attacking it or abducting its soldiers, but it must on no account do so in a manner that might actually end the attacks and permanently stop the abductions. It must fight terrorists according to rules that do not, by definition, apply to terrorists.
To accept this understanding of proportionality is to accept that Israel is in a perpetual war of attrition, that it is always obliged to contain what force it has so that it is always balanced, even to ideal equivalence, with the force enjoyed by the rogues and terrorists who attack it.
I cannot think of any other state in the world that is asked and, by the truly high-minded, expected to live in a perpetual dynamic of attack and response — with the initiative always understood to be with its enemies.
Such is proportionality. It is a doctrine of cruelty and folly, but, more significant, it is a doctrine designed for the only state in the world that has to seriously worry about the fact of its own existence.
Lately, it has more reason to do so than has ever been the norm for that battered country. One of the other ruder messages coming out of this current crisis is the number of voices starting to remind us that maybe Israel was a mistake to begin with. In Western opinion, this thought is but a whisper, but how common a whisper it is becoming.
Matthew Parris of The Times, no less, gave the thought its most weary expression: “My opinion — held not passionately but with little personal doubt — is that there is no point in arguing about whether the state of Israel should have been established where and when it was because it has become a fact. To try to remove it now would be at least as great an injustice as the one originally done to the Palestinians.”
What an interesting thought: Clear away the clutter and the ennui and what it says is that Israel was a mistake, both where and when, and if it weren’t so much trouble, maybe we could fix it.
Well, there are others on this globe who don’t mind the trouble involved in fixing it, among them Hezbollah, al-Qaeda (which has jumped onside with Hezbollah) and the Iranian President, who speaks with such fervour of wiping Israel off the map. The latter is building a nuclear arsenal, and is likely not as dispassionate as the weary Mr. Parris.
That kind of whisper is the tuning of an orchestra we do not want to hear. Nor do we wish to view, even in our dreams, the horrid proportionality its strains would most likely evoke.
This is not to excuse Israel’s folly. It is to say that Israel cannot sit around hoping that other countries will play nice someday. Unfortunately for the world, Jews have had no historical experience of this.