A Few Basic Thoughts . . . [Jay Nordlinger]
. . . occasioned by the Helen Thomas outburst. We owe something to her: She said out loud, in her specially nasty way, what other people think — that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” (not Israel, but “Palestine”) and that the Jews should “go home”: to Germany, to Poland, to wherever else they came from, or fled from. (Has anyone told Thomas that she should “go home” to Lebanon? I’m sure that Hezbollah would welcome her as a heroine.)
With the hard-core anti-Israel crowd, the problem is not “occupation,” not the addition of in-law suites in Jerusalem: The problem is Israel itself. The very right of that state to exist. People like Helen Thomas are way to the “left,” if that’s the term, of the official position of the PLO. They are in line with Hamas and Hezbollah — and their patron in Iran.
The PLO-niks — Saeb Erekat, Hanan Ashrawi — are now the Uncle Toms of the anti-Israel community. Helen Thomas and the flotilla people are in the cool, fashionable forefront.
One of the things that encourage Israel’s enemies is the idea that the Jewish state is only temporary: that it is just a passing problem, not here to stay. The existence of Israel is conditional at best: Maybe if they behave themselves, we’ll let them stick around for a few more years, until demographics overwhelm them . . .
It would be helpful to peace in the Middle East if Israel’s enemies could be absolutely sure that Israel is not going anywhere: that it is here to stay. Remember the old gay slogan? “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”? Israel’s enemies need to know something like that about Israel. But as long as they have the feeling that the world — you know: “the world,” as in the New York Times, the U.N., and Bono — is not really committed to the existence of Israel, they will push for Israel’s destruction.
They have never resigned themselves to Israel’s existence; they have never resigned themselves to co-existence. People like Helen Thomas make it easier for them not to resign themselves. People like Thomas give them hope — making them think, “Ah, maybe we can actually get rid of them. Not just extract a better deal, but get rid of them altogether!”
Under George W. Bush and other presidents, the United States gave the impression that we would back Israel, come what may. That was a quite useful thing for Israel’s enemies to know. It was more important for them to know it than for Israel to know it. The current U.S. administration does not give that impression (is my impression).
With the very right of Israel to exist under assault, now might be a good time to move America’s embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. I remember something George Shultz said a few years ago: that having our embassy in Tel Aviv makes it seem that we are just “camping out.” A move to Jerusalem would signal: As far as we’re concerned, this state is permanent. It ain’t goin’ anywhere, get used to it.
Hang on, let me find the full Shultz quote. Okay, got it — from June 2003: “Why not move our embassy to West Jerusalem and be done with it? People should do things that say Israel is there to stay. We should say we think a big element in the process of seeking peace is the acceptance of Israel’s existence and so we’re going to go around to all our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere and say, ‘Let’s accept Israel’s right to exist’ — and a way of doing that is to move our embassy to West Jerusalem. As long as the embassy is in Tel Aviv, it sort of says we’re camping out.”
There are some people who are pro-Israel, or accepting of Israel, only when Labor or the Left is in charge. When the Israeli electorate has the temerity to vote for conservatives, then these people are not so supportive or accepting. Their support and acceptance are merely conditional: Well, if they vote the way I want, and don’t embarrass me . . .
There is an analogy to America, of course: I know some Europeans who are not quite anti-American — they just support or accept America when the voters elect liberal Democrats. When the voters, under the influence of darkness, elect conservatives, all bets are off: America is illegit.
When I was growing up, there was grumbling that Jews were immune: immune to criticism. They were off-limits, because the Holocaust had occurred so recently. We had a miniseries on TV, as I recall, about the Holocaust. This series had “raised our consciousness,” had “heightened our awareness.” Anti-Semitism was verboten — as bad as anti-black racism. Over the years, however, I have watched anti-Semitism become less stigmatized and less stigmatized, less taboo and less taboo. Before we know it, it may even be cool. That is very bad news.
This anti-Semitism usually expresses itself in the anti-Israel temper. But there’s a difference between being against the Jews and being against Israel, right? Of course there is. But it’s strange how the world works out — how people work out. I quote Paul Johnson: “Scratch a person who is anti-Israel, and you won’t have to dig very far before you reach the anti-Semite underneath.”
Anti-Israel people, before, complained about Israeli policies. Now they are apt to complain about Israel, pure and simple. Like Tony Judt, people say that the very creation of Israel was “the original sin.” They don’t really care about the security barrier or the West Bank “settlements.” (I realize I am repeating myself a little here, forgive me.) They used to cry, “Land for peace!” Well, the Israelis withdrew from Southern Lebanon and from Gaza, unilaterally. Did they get peace? Were the critics satisfied, or less critical? No: Criticism, hatred, and intolerance of Israel intensified. This has nothing to do with occupation (with or without the quotation marks: “occupation.”)
People say, with increasing frequency, “Why should there be a Jewish state? Isn’t that kind of racist — undemocratic?” There are 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference — almost 60 states that identify themselves specifically as Muslim. The world has no problem with them: only with the tiny, dusty sliver that identifies itself as Jewish. The Jews were storm-tossed, homeless, for 2,000 years — dependent on the goodwill of host nations, dependent on the kindness of strangers. And yet the world begrudges their one dinky state.
We have no problem with Thais in Thailand; we have no problem with Senegalese in Senegal; we have a problem with Jews in Israel — never mind the 1.5 million Arabs who live there, enjoying rights that are unknown to most Arabs elsewhere.
If the world lets Israel go under, a mere two or three generations after the Holocaust, we will have learned a sick, sick thing about the world. Time magazine, I think it was, once had a very dramatic, hard-to-forget cover: “Thinking the Unthinkable.” It was about nuclear armageddon. (Remember when people worried about that stuff? Then Reagan came . . .) Events large and small — Iran’s nuclear drive, the Helen Thomas outburst — have led me to think about the unthinkable: the loss of Israel. They won’t go without a fight, I feel sure. And I know which side I’m on.
06/06 06:46 PMShare
Published in the National Review: