It seems as though much of the world has the same problem with Israel and America today that Pope Urban VIII had with Galileo in 1632. Back then Galileo lost his liberty and died under house arrest. It is even more serious for Israel. But I am a little ahead of myself.
When I put up my last post, I braced myself for objections to my idea that “Kill the Jews” was just the next natural expression of “political realism”. Only a little more dismaying than the observations and facts that prompted me to post it is the complete lack of protest and denial with which it was greeted.
On the contrary, even though the post got big traffic, mostly due to a mention by Mark Steyn on The National Review’s web site The Corner, not one commenter or private email that I received disagreed with the idea that “Kill the Jews” was too extreme to describe the subtext of political realism. Even as I was posting it, the Helen Thomas controversy was heating up. What could be a clearer? The superannuated harpy and erstwhile laughing stock of the White House press corps proposed that the final solution to the Israeli- Palestinian problem would be for the Jews to “Go back…to Poland and Germany- the scene of the one of the most successful and recent “final solutions” of the Jewish Problem.
It was not so much what she said or how she said it - it is the fact that even as they condemned the bold-faced effrontery of her suggestion, many in the media did it half-heartedly- even with regret. She was called a pioneer and a doyen- one who locked horns with every president from Kennedy to Obama. All of which I found rather odd considering that I remember those signature exchanges between her and Kennedy and I seem to recall him treating her as a crank – whose extreme and largely rhetorical “questions he sidestepped with grace and good-natured humor. Many of the other presidents were less good-natured and shorter with her. There was, among many in the media, a pervasive sense of regret and resignation about her demise as a journalist. Not many actually parsed the logic of her fateful words and identified the “final solution” subtext of them. This failure causes me the deepest sense of alarm. In her own over-simplified way, she put into words what the cowards, charlatans and manipulators in the mainstream media, the parliaments of Europe and, alas, the Obama White House, really feel. The horror of Helen Thomas, for those people, is that she said something close enough to the little voice they hear in their own heads that they are suffering from embarrassment more than revulsion.
Then, hard on Thomas’ heels, there was the incident of The Gaza Flotilla, another example of in a long tradition of tidal waves of hatred and public condemnation for Israel. The way in which the clearly provocative and illegal flotilla of was swiftly lionized by much of the world as humanitarian and compassionate shows how very far the terror and violence of the last sixty years has perverted the popular sensibility. The prevailing language in the press of the “deadly Israeli raid” or “massacre” or the “Israeli killing of flotilla activists” proves that the media are no longer a healthy filter for our information. The unwillingness of the Obama administration, immediately to declare unequivocal support for Israel’s wholly legal and reasonable actions show how deeply compromised our moral standing is. They are all so busy being amazed and pathetically grateful for even the pretense of nonviolence that they are falling all over themselves to reward provocation with legitimacy.
This rush to judge and condemn Israel for yet another “massacre” that wasn’t a massacre is the latest and most obvious example of how the Arabs- using naked terror, guilt and outright deceit- have bullied and battered the media and elites of The West- entrained them (us) to a mass Stockholm Syndrome. The years of incessant Islamist calls for death to The West, America and Israel, the decades of outrageous rhetoric and the bloody, callous slaughter of innocents have, finally, bulldozed Europe, America and Israel so far off their foundational principals, out of their cultural perspective that it seems more important to avoid giving any offence to even the most radical Islamist than to actually look at the obvious evidence that they are totalitarian murderers bent on world conquest. The result is a mad world in which the Obama administration commits “even-handed” blunder after “impartial” betrayal to try to prove he is capable of being an ”honest broker” in a peace process in which only one of the parties is interested in peace.
Most of the European, American and even Israeli elites now hold war to be the ultimate evil and peace to be the ultimate good. All other values are, as a result, negotiable when trying to bring about peace. Every year there seems to be less and less that seems worth fighting for. Peacemaking and diplomacy become an exercise in getting everybody to quiet down and stop making trouble. The operative assumption seems to be that if you try to give everybody a “fair shake” (here “a fair shake” often means splitting the dispute down the middle even if one side is more legitimate than the other). Right and wrong matter less than peace and quiet.
The Islamists in Palestine and elsewhere hold war and religious violence to be a sacred duty- something that gives purpose to life. They view Western culture and all its liberalities as a profanity. They take particular exception to the very existence of Israel. Their clergy quote sacred verses to validate the slaughter of Jews and Americans. Their political leaders vow military action to “wipe Israel off the map” and subjugate America. They have prosecuted a sixty-year-long campaign to deligitimize, terrorize and destroy Israel.
It is a classic human tragedy, the injustice of “splitting the difference”. The Israelis are asking only for their half of the loaf- only that to which they are entitled. The Arabs are asking for the whole loaf- the destruction of Israel. To the orthodox peace-seeker who is both intimidated by violence and morally compromised by progressive ideologies such as the political realism I discussed in my last post, it seems “only fair” to split the difference and give the Arabs three quarters of the loaf. By insisting only on mere survival, the desire for peaceful coexistence and the right to protect her people while her enemies have been calling officially and working diligently for her destruction and elimination, Israel has allowed the prevailing sentiment in this debate to be pushed inexorably toward the side of her enemies.
This is the reason that Israel is the only country in the world whose “right to exist” is always in the debate. Friends constantly assert it as if it needed to be said and enemies often get away with behaving as if she doesn’t. While most people claim to believe that Israel has the right to exist and protect her citizens, more and more of them howl in protest at every attempt she makes to do so. More and more people around the world find it possible to rationalize each anti-Israel murder and terror attack as an expression of Arab passion and dedication while the bland logic and humble honesty of the Israelis are, increasingly, seen as stubbornness, bigotry and troublemaking.
Interestingly, Israel’s message has not been entirely drowned out by the Islamist bullying. It has merely been shoved aside so that there are now two completely contradictory ideas that exist side by side in the public mind. One is that most people want to believe in the illusion that if Israelis were to (magically)“go back to Poland and Germany” as Ms Thomas put it, the Arabs would be satisfied and there would be peace. They want to believe this illusion so badly that they are willing to ignore obvious facts- starting with the axiom: “If the Arabs put down their weapons tomorrow there would be no more war and if the Israelis put down their weapons there would be no more Israel.”
Holding two diametrically opposed beliefs simultaneously is not nearly as impossible as it sounds. People do it all the time. It only becomes a problem when action is required or when other people are looking (and talking). Orthodoxies have been struggling with it for centuries.
I use the word orthodoxy here with a lower case “o” without any specific religious connection. I certainly do not mean Orthodox Jews with whom I am closer in my beliefs and practice every year I live. I mean orthodox in the fascist sense of “right thinking” and quick to accuse anyone who disagrees with them as “heretics”. It is important to understand this because one of our worst problems in understanding this situation is that most people see the problem as a conflict between the left and the right ends of the political continuum. It is more accurate, though, to characterize it as a conflict between Utopian Orthodoxy and Empirical Constitutionalism.
The Helen Thomas affair is only one of many recent events that indicate that Progressive leftist doctrine is evolving into an ever more pernicious dogma that could come to resemble Hitler’s socialist Nazism and the totalitarian Communism of Stalin and Mao. The telltale marker of this evolution is the advance of political correctness, which is nothing less that “hunting for heresy” on training wheels. What is more disturbing is the alliance, even to the point of codependence, that has joined the Progressive/Socialist left with their goals of government driven change and improvement (and secularization) of social condition in an illogical alliance with Islamists and their dreams of World Wide Caliphate that would forever keep social conditions static and theologically determined.
The obvious but basically unsatisfying answer is that what they have most in common is that Western Civilization is their common enemy. The chief dissatisfaction of this answer is that it is, at the same time, entirely obvious on the face of it and just as impenetrable in its mechanics.
That is to say, while it is true that belief in either of those two competing ideologies is not compatible with sincere citizenship in any truly Western (or Civilized!) sense, each of them is so much more abhorrent to the other that in a world where the two existed without the mediating openness and tolerance imposed on them by the dominant culture of Western Civilization, they would be compelled to annihilate each other. And which ever one had the upper hand militarily they would do so summarily and without compunction- just look at the historical forerunners of the players: Mohammed, Stalin, the massacre of Hindus in the wake of the Indian Partition, Hitler, Darfur, the Khmer Rouge- the very worst of the massacres of humankind. Just as surely as the socialist Progressive left execrates all but the most liberal and agnostic religion, Islamism despises and must destroy all forms of heretics and free-thinkers. So, how to explain their support for each other? The ironic answer is that the very success and power of the Judeo-Christian civilization makes it possible for them to exist along side each other.
Their common loathing of America and Israel springs from their commonly held belief about the order of the universe, human nature and value of human life. They agree with each other and disagree with the great Western Tradition fundamentally about the very structure of the universe and the purpose of life. Both Islamism and Progressivism are communal utopian ideologies. They believe that individual human beings are given their meaning and value by the larger organizing force. Whether that force is viewed as the will of Allah, the society (as in socialism), The consensus of the “educated” and the “experts” (the ideal of the Progressives), the people or race (as in Fascism) or the proletariat (communism), the individual is expected to be subservient to it and compliant with it. The individual revolves around the polity and gains meaning and fulfillment only as part of it. The system (whatever its assumed form) is always the source of meaning and people approach perfection through compliance with it.
In America and Israel, and to a diminishing degree the rest of The West, the individual is the “center of the universe”. We grant that reality is messy and imperfect and that the best way to improve the world is to harness the energy and goodness of people while providing appropriate counter balance to their natural imperfections. It is no accident that, standing on the bloody ground of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln called upon the unique American formulation of government, “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as the most important justification for the sacrifice of so many young men. Then as now the orthodoxies of entrenched rulers and ideologues had to be confronted to insure that to one tradition in the world’s history that so honored the individual, “shall not perish from the earth”. Nor is it any accident that America and Israel are the two most dynamic, and open societies on earth. They both embody respect for the individual and individual responsibility. It is this combination of responsiveness to the individual and openness to individual input that fosters growth, economic dynamism and political viability.
So, the argument is really about what the center of the personal/political universe is. This was precisely the problem between the Pope and Galileo. The Pope was an intelligent and educated man who clearly understood that the logic and evidence behind the Copernican view of the universe was a better and more useful model than the official version he was protecting. It predicted events with more success and presented a simpler and more accurate representation of the behavior of “celestial objects”. It was, simply, more useful and successful.
The Pope, to his credit, understood that in the long run denying the actual evidence for Copernicus’ model would have been futile. The Catholic Church was powerful but the movable type printing press was already in wide use and literacy (along with individual autonomy) were on the rise. Unable to outlaw facts and logic but he may or may not have felt loyalty to the church’s established view but he certainly also knew that allowing facts and logic to defeat church doctrine would weaken his hold on power. In any case, he needed to resolve his intellectual dilemma without seeming too dogmatically primitive, so he told Galileo that he could write about Copernicus’ solar-centric solar system model- but he had to write about it “hypothetically”. In other words, he could present the facts and the logic but he could not draw conclusions from them or apply them to our position in the universe. Nor could he use them to analyze our world. Doing those things, The Pope knew, would prove that there was a basic and fatal flaw in the church’s Cosmological frame of reference.
That ruling was, perhaps, the first recorded instance of political correctness. Just as the Islamists try to keep us from talking about the religion behind terror and the leftists try to keep us from recognizing that the redistribution of wealth is not motivated by the compassion to which they pretend, the “hypothetical” ruling was an attempt to disconnect the facts and real observations from the reality they described. Forbidden speech and conspiracy of silence are principal strategies of totalitarian regimes down through the ages.
But let’s return to the past two weeks events. It has, I think come to the point at which the world must choose whether Israel really does have the right to exist in security or not. Ruling orthodoxies (and Islamism and Progressivism are both orthodoxies that would rule) simply cannot bear the cognitive dissonance of supporting that idea alongside the Islamist desire for genocide. That would be required in recognizing the basic flaws in both world views. They are in psychic pain and furious at Israel for it. They would let Israel die to soothe themselves- Kill the Jews, kill the pain.
The left are keen to take away Israel’s moral authority and fall pathetically into every nasty blood libel their Islamist allies cook up- no matter how stupid and transparent. Al Durah, Jenin, poisoned water, Gaza Beach, stolen organs from Arab corpses, The Flotilla- they are all obvious frauds. Still, the haters of the left pile them up and through the “injustice of the split difference”, Israel gets tarred just because they have accused her, and all the while, her accusers avoid the disgrace they so richly deserve.
Just so, the cheap, clumsy deceit of the “humanitarian flotilla” which led to the justified killing of the “protestors” who otherwise would surely have finished the job of beating and stabbing the Israeli boarding party to death, has succeeded in extorting Israel once again. The government has reacted to the overwhelming public outcry from the left, the Islamist world and their ignorant supporters by “easing the blockade on Gaza”. That “public” whose outcry coerced this easing either does not care that it has made it easier for Hamas to fashion terror weapons and to harden the launching platforms that they hide within their own civilian population or they secretly harbor the desire that Hamas should just “do everyone a favor” and finish the job on Israel. For these people, the more Israel protests and maintains her modest aim of self-preservation, the more she makes a nuisance of herself. Helen Thomas proposed they “go back to Poland or Germany” what she and her fellow progressives mean is that they wish she would just disappear. Yet again, another component of Israel’s legitimate need for security has been sacrificed to the illusion that she is what is standing in the way of whatever utopian society or Caliphate they dream of that might be created on her grave.
Know this, if the Islamists and the left are allowed to destroy Israel and to make over The United States into a more leftist or Sharia friendly state, we will see a dark age fall upon the world. I quoted Lincoln above and I return to him now. In his address to congress in December of 1862, as he was preparing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln said,
“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth…”
Lincoln knew that whatever its faults and even crimes, the American Republic was the only human government ever devised to that point in history that offered the breadth of opportunity, the dignity of self-reliance and the freedom of choice provided here and to let it slip into chaos would be to allow a great darkness to befall humanity. As The Union was threatened in Lincoln’s day, Israel, a beacon of democracy, freedom and success amidst an Islamic sea of countries that fester with slavery, naked genocidal hatred and endemic abuse of women and children is in danger of being destroyed.
The hyenas of Islam, in the grip of their medieval longing for world domination under a new Caliphate and humiliated by their own inability to make a living by any other means than sucking the accidental petro-wealth out of the ground lead the attack while the jackals of the left infiltrate and work on the inside while the world as we know it begins to go to waste. The Arab world squanders its easy money on terror forcing The West to spend money on defense rather than infrastructure. The left raids the earned wealth of America and Israel by creating welfare entitlements (hello healthcare) and regulations (cap and tax) that no nation could afford. The Islamists say that Israel must be destroyed and wink that Europe is next then America will be (as Mark Steyn wrote) alone. At home we cannot even speak of the problems without using absurd circumlocutions (man caused disaster, don’t point out that the terrorist is Islamic, don’t point out that the Obama agenda is socialist, etc…) let alone devise an effective strategy to combat it. Man Caused Disasters?!?! Even Pope Urban VIII would be impressed with how “hypothetical” that keeps things. And still, no one complains that “Kill the Jews” is too extreme.