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From the Middle East comes news that Hamas and Fatah have united to forge a national-unity thugocracy in Gaza and the West Bank.
We in the West can fantasize all we like that fatwas and fanaticism are on the wane across the Arab world. The romantic projections of mushy minds will do nothing to alter reality. A preponderance of newly liberated Egyptians wants the peace with Israel to expire. And a seething Syrian majority, currently clamoring for freedom from the clutches of the Alawi minority, is also rooting for the reclamation of the Golan Heights.
The fact that the Palestinians, unlike their Israeli neighbors, don’t live under the rule of enlightened Western law, don’t have a free and ferociously critical media or liberal courts, and are more likely to approve when brothers “honor-kill” sisters, or when coreligionists strap on belts of nails and dynamite to blow up innocents – this, too, is immutably true.
Yet the “civilized” world is working diligently to shrink the civilized sphere that is Israel and expand the barbaric Palestinian Authority. As Israel’s Independent News Center has reported, the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia may push Israel to “withdraw to the [indefensible] armistice lines drawn up between the Jewish state and Jordan in 1949.”
The international community’s latest impetus was confirmed by Dori Gold, one-time Israeli ambassador to the Unites Nations, on “The Glenn Beck Show.” On the eve of the Easter Holy Week, Beck infuriated Fox News’ Saudi shareholders by taking a symbolic, if unequivocal, stand for “the Jew among nations”; for the civilized society that abuts the savage society. Foibles and frailties notwithstanding, in Israel the West has reclaimed a small spot of sanity in a sea of savagery, where Christians and Jews and their holy places are safe. (Muslims, Arab-Israelis included, are always secure in Western societies.)
When Jews commenced what must be the most remarkable modern-day national revival, Israel was a wasteland. The utilitarian classical liberal economist Ludwig von Mises observed that for centuries the Near East has been a cultural backwater. “The Mohammedans” – Mises’ delightfully archaic usage – have for hundreds of years failed to produce so much as a “book of significance,” much less any scientific or other advancement. As Mises saw it, the catalysts for creativity and prosperity are individual freedom and freedom from the state, ideas that are inimical to the cultures of the Near East, and the Islamic world in particular.
Unfortunately, the rabbi Beck entertained during his hour-long broadcast, “In Defense of Israel,” instantiated a lot of what is wrong with American Jewry – and, as a consequence, what is likely to cause Americans to resent Israelis, indirectly.
What do I mean?
A woman in the audience probed Rabbi Joseph Potasnik about the differences between American and Israeli Jews. In his incoherent reply, the rabbi was as ghettoized as any representative of CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations). Israeli and diaspora Jews are two different species. Alas, Rabbi Potasnik furnished some tribal retort that all too well demonstrated how Jewish leadership has cast Jews (and Israelis, by extension) as a mere faction among America’s many fractious, multicultural identity groups.
Moreover, there’s a certain truth the rabbi avoided: American Jews tend to stake out left-liberal positions with respect to the concerns of their fellow Americans, but are rightist on matters Israel. For America, leftist Jews advocate a multicultural, immigration free-for-all, pluralist pottage. At the same time for Israel, most Jews claim the right to retain a creedal and cultural distinctiveness and a Jewish majority. Israel, but not the U.S., should be allowed to control immigration and guard its borders.
Ask any left-liberal American Jew if he supports a “Right of Return” to Israel proper for every self-styled Palestinian refugee, and he’ll recoil: “Are you mad? Never. That’s a euphemism for Israel’s demise.” The very thing he opposes for Israel, the leftist Jew is inclined to champion for America: a global right of return to the U.S. for the citizens of the world. When it comes to “returning” to America only (but not Israel), humankind is said to possess a positive, manufactured right to venture wherever, whenever. (This view is common among American liberals of all religious persuasions.)
The plan hatched by the Middle East Quartet for Israel has been shelved, for now. The U.S. has postponed a Quartet meeting – in all likelihood because Barack Obama is already in bad odor with the American people on so many other fronts.
The Quartet will be back to push Israel back.
This column has been consistently polite about – but disinterested in – the putative push for freedom across the Middle East.
Dare I say that such a stance, and not slobbering sentimentality, is the proper, libertarian position? I promised, accordingly, that when liberty-deprived peoples the world over supported patriots stateside, I’d return the favor.
The same goes for Israel. Israelis want the support of Americans in standing up for their national sovereignty. Fine. But they should respond in kind.
The titan is tired. We Americans have our own tyrants to tackle. We no longer want to defend to the death borders not our own – be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, wherever. And we don’t need our friends looking to us to do so.