When the Arab-Israeli conflict involved five Arab armies attacking a tiny nascent socialist state, it was bon ton for leftists and liberals to support Israel. The Jewish State was “flavor of the month” and roundly applauded for its spectacular military victories.
It was, I believe, the confluence of two significant factors that drove the Western elites, particularly the left-wing section of that constituency, to abandon the Jewish state and dump their post-colonialism, post-Holocaust guilty conscience onto Israel.
After repeated and embarrassing military defeats the Arabs began to promote Yasser Arafat as the leader of a new Palestinian movement. Adopting the name of Palestine as his cause, they allowed Arafat, the first modern-day Islamic arch-terrorist, to spearhead a Pan-Arabism targeting Israel as the epitome of the West that they hated. He was their terror proxy where conventional warfare had failed them.
Initially, Arafat saw himself as the champion of Pan-Arabism. He even went so far as to deny a Palestinian aim in his fight against Israel. In a 1970 interview with Italian journalist, Arianna Palazzi, he said, “The question of borders doesn’t interest us. Palestine is nothing but a drop in an enormous ocean. Our nation is the Arabic nation. The PLO is fighting Israel in the name of Pan- Arabism. What you call Jordan is nothing more than Palestine.”
What Arafat said was, and still is, factually, legally, and demographically true with the vast majority of people living in Jordan calling themselves “Palestinian”. The “Palestinian people” is an anthropological fabrication. This was admitted by Feisal Hussein after the Oslo Accords when he said that this cause was a “Trojan Horse” to conquer Israel.
Palestinism became the hook on which the Arabs, the Muslims, the radical left, and the European intellectual elite, hung their animus of anti-Western, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, all the “anti’s” that fed off European guilt for their past history. One “anti” was anti-Semitism. The guilt attached to this was their anti-Semitism had been exposed by the atrocities that are an end product of this type of hatred. As such, it went dormant for decades, waiting to re-emerge as criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinian cause. It merged with the noisy actions of a well-funded, well-organized radical campaign. Triumphant from tactics employed to overthrow the white regime in South Africa, they adopted more of the same in their next experiment, namely the elimination of Israel.
At the same time, Israel turned away from the socialism of the Labor Party. It was a time to liberate and capitalize their economy, the success of which can be seen in the emergence of Israel as “The Start Up Nation.” But the rejection of socialism was an anathema to the Western left, especially the more aggressive and radical wings who are tireless in plotting and planning a world in their image. They had by now added a “human rights” element to their argument. By craftily airbrushing out deeply felt Arab hatred of Jews, backed by Palestinian violence and terror that targeted citizens of the Jewish state, they sold a fraudulent picture of oppression when facts on the ground showed that Israel was acting in defense of its people against the assaults of a hateful enemy positioned just minutes away. Their arguments, however, were a soft sell to a shallow thinking public opinion whose knee jerk reaction is to support the perceived underdog.
Undoubtedly, Europe can boast peaceful open borders but, for all their enlightenment and intellectual superiority, they still suffer from a collective guilt conscience. Europe is still shackled to Nazi crimes. In a post-Holocaust era, they fashioned a doctrine designed to prevent further genocides. They failed in this noble mission. Massacres occur with alarming regularity. Not only have been unable to prevent them from happening, they have failed to stop them once they begin.
Decades later they misinterpret and misapply Geneva conventions to conflicts unrelated to the intentions of the original Geneva drafters. One prime example is the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Some use Geneva-talk. They finesse expressions such as “occupation” and “illegal settlements” when there is equal, perhaps better, legitimacy for a different Israeli opinion. “Transfer of population into occupied territory” is applied to Israel, but not to Turkey in Cyprus. “International law” is quoted where none exists.
Repeating a fallacy does not make it kosher no matter how many times the international community tells the lie. When Europeans construct false claims into an automatic denunciation of Israel they should remember that this is an artificial machination. No matter how hard they try to push it up the hill it will not fly. It is not built on fact or truth.
European guilt goes way beyond Auschwitz regrets. They have a stained history of colonization, exploitation, and oppression of foreign lands to live down. Third World poverty and starvation, past and present, can be laid at their, and America’s, door. Their shame will not be redeemed by imposing their guilt factors into resolutions and sanctions that victimize Israel. Instead, they should stop their Utopian altruism and false morality, or at least tether it to a realistic political policy that takes into account decades of Palestinian violence, terror, and incitement for a world without the Jewish state. It may take two to tango, but Israel and Palestinian Arabs may dance more harmoniously if the band leader played an honest tune.
Rushing a Palestinian state will not guarantee it to be the new democracy in the Middle East, no matter how hard they wish it to be true. On the contrary, steamrolling Israel underfoot will produce a rogue regime bent on its declared ambitions to eliminate the Jewish state.
Middle East countries do not share the European mindset, not in morality, and not in democracy. The West must understand the mindset of the Arab and Muslim world before they impose their liberal, democratic, values on a region that has zero tolerance for such niceties. Forcing Israel, the only liberal democracy in the area, to behave European, while giving a free pass to a rejectionist, rigid, and intolerant adversary, is not the path to peace. It will be as useless and immoral as it has been with all the other genocides and massacres that have been perpetrated since the last Holocaust of the Jewish people.
Such a disaster will not swathe a Western guilt complex. On the contrary, such a mistake could lead the Jewish people into yet another ghetto from which they will be unable to effectively defend themselves.
This historic fate would have echoes of the past and only increase the guilt of a world that has always failed its Jews.
Barry Shaw is the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative. He is also the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.