Israel has been under attack in the media, especially in Europe, like at no other time in my recollection. The emergence of the new anti-Semitic wolf under the politically correct sheepskin of “Anti-Zionism” is fooling no one. It merely allows anti-Semitism a new legitimacy and allows those spouting hatred for Israel a defense: “You see we cannot even criticize Israel without being called anti-Semitic.” As if there were a double standard in Israel’s favor. These Orwellian inversions are frustrating but not insurmountable, by any means.
The paleao-left, which followed the Party Line from Moscow, was well aware of the rich vein of hatred to exploit, both within the USSR and in Europe and the Middle East. In fact, it created the whole Palestinian National Movement in the 1960’s as a mirror image of Zionism, complete with a Law of Return. While the tactical roots of the Palestinian national movement have their roots in Soviet propaganda techniques, the movement’s real origin is in the anti-Semitic core of many adherents of Islam, which found a sympathetic ear in Hitler. I think these “useful idiots” as Lenin called such people, would have been disappointed in HItler’s long term plan for this non-Aryan people and the Soviet’s long term plan for their practice of Islam.
Today their heirs apparent have followed this thread faithfully, and now that the threat of the Soviets is gone, perhaps with less awareness of the origins of this rhetoric.
The latest effort, the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement harkens back to a similar movement against South Africa during the bad old days of apartheid. Thus, this movement has sought to conflate the State of Israel with South Africa. Now, all right thinking people are against apartheid right? So there you have it, another PC way of hating Israel. It has freed up a wealth of anti-semitic expression which a few years ago would have been unthinkable: witness Time Magazine’s uncritical parroting of a 2009 Swedish article alleging that the IDF harvested organs from the Palestinians (See http://www.timesofisrael.com/time-retracts-idf-organ-harvesting-allegation/
This would have been unthinkable in my lifetime prior to the current environment.
This can be quite infuriating to those who see through this, because one bad slogan is worth a thousand well reasoned arguments. It takes work to contest overt and covert libel and the easy catch phrase has a way of sticking.
However, one might ask the question, what is the best way of fighting back? There is a quote, sometimes attributed to the Talmud, but I can find to citations to it other than by the poet George Herbert: “Living well is the best revenge.” There is a reason so many people are willing to attribute it to the Talmud: it is so Jewish in quality, but more to my point, considering its originator, it is so Judaeo-Christian. It’s just that the Jews have had more opportunities to demonstrate this principle (unfortunately.)
In fact, Israel has been the choice of the Jewish people to live well, live productively and not be dragged into fear and hatred. Is there anger at being under siege? Of course there is, but I have never met an Israeli who did not wish for peace with their Arab neighbors.
This is one component of the “secret weapon” which I allude to in the title of this little essay.
While the BDS movement has gained some traction, perhaps due to the partial success of the Hamas “Dead Baby Strategy”, I believe this will be short-lived and will have no long term endurance for the many reasons I outline here. Lists such as this one underscore the absurdity of BDS for most Western consumers. The underlying reality makes the BDS movement untenable.
However, this is not to underestimate the power of ridicule in dismantling this rhetoric. As H.L. Mencken said: “The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived.”
Despite the actions of the U.S. administration in the recent conflict with Hamas, a friend who is an officer in the U.S. military assures me that the relationship between the U.S. Armed Forces and the IDF are, in his words, “unbreakable”. Not because of dependence, but because of mutual values and a health interdependence. Israel’s contributions to technology have made it a huge asset to the American military and the reciprocal relationship is well known. The ties between the Israeli Security Agencies and the CIA go back to the foundations of the State of Israel and Ben Gurion.
All of the above points to a key component of Israel’s Secret Weapon relationship.
Relationships between humans, states and peoples have many dimensions: familial, economic and another which is known in the science of networks as homophily In non-technical terms it is the phenomenon known as “Birds of a feather, flock together”. This affinity creates natural friends in both the West and in the East. This is reinforced by the fact that the radical Islamists have targeted everybody, Indian, Chinese and even Arabs , as we have recently seen.
The modern mathematical study of networks has yielded much valuable insight. Consider the Medici family, who were a major force in promoting the Renaissance in Florence. From where did they derive their influence?
One explanation can be found in a network analysis of the major families in Florence at the time. The network looks like this:
It can be observed (and mathematically computed) that the Medici are the most central family. The shortest, and often only path from some families to others was through the Medici. (The trade and marriage networks are amazingly similar).
Today, the central hub of world trade is the United States. Israel has both trade and familial relationships with the United States. I believe the phenomenon of intermarriage has strengthened the ties between Israel and the U.S., as people tend to maintain their Jewish identification regardless of he practice of religion.
While there are many reports of anti-Semitism being on the rise in the U.S., I believe this has contributed to a backlash, because pro-Israel sentiment in the U.S. is at an all time high according to this Gallup Poll
I am sure this is a complex phenomenon, but the activity of Israel’s supporters on social media, bypassing the commercial infotainment of cable news and the biased print media, has surely had an effect. That means that committed pro-Israel Americans have had, I believe, a powerful effect on their social networks, creating a greater affinity across political lines, across ethnicity (Latino support is at an all time high as well, for example) and across the political spectrum. Israel’s living well has created a position of respect and admiration in the American psyche. The activities of Muslim fundamentalists, such as ISIL, have the potential of galvanizing this sentiment.
In the academic world, a huge influx of cash from the Arab world under Title VI (Which was designed to help Americans learn more about other cultures) has created a threat to academic freedom. There will be a backlash, due to the high value of Israeli and Jewish academics and scientists.
There is a story about David Hilbert. a non-Jewish mathematician of giant stature. He remained the chair of University of Gõttingen after the “Great Purge of 1933” when n the 1930s, the university became a focal point for the Nazi party, attempting to rid German of Jewish physics and Jewish mathematics, causing some of the most illustrious names in those fields to flee and seek asylum elsewhere, where they continued to live well. One day a Nazi party official visits Gõttingen and asks David Hilbert “How is mathematics department at Gõttingen, now that it has been freed of the Jews?” Hilbert replied, “What mathematics department?” He was too old and too famous to care, apparently.
And, notice that recent articles report the Chinese trade with Israel is on the rise. Apparently the Chinese don’t think much of BDS.
One effect of radical Islam and its attacks on India may have been to create a greater sense of awareness and empathy on the part of the Indian people. And Israel has become India’s second largest arm’s supplier, second only to Russia (a fact grimly reported in Al-Jazeera).
For many Christians, Israel’s focus on making the desert bloom, providing a hospitable environment for Middle Eastern Christians and Christian Holy Places, and engaging in humanitarian efforts around the world (See this Facebook page) creates a greater sense of respect and has the potential of placing Israel in a position of moral leadership, not pariahdom. It does not go unnoticed that often, Israel is the first to respond to humanitarian crises and has even offered to help its self-declared sworn enemies in time of need. This sounds a lot like “Love thy enemies” and “resist not evil” . (Save your comments : The latter is does not prescribe self-defense not debasing oneself to its level in opposition, I believe.)
Not enough has been said in the social media about Israel’s humanitarian efforts, especially in aid of the Iraqi minorities, Kurds and Yazidis.
Finally, I would like to include a picture of a house on New Orleans famous St. Charles Ave. It is a couple of blocks from Tulane and University and the house is owned by a family of devout Catholics. During the recent Gaza campaign they put an additional flag next to the American flag which normally adorns the front of their house. They want people in Israel to see it, and take heart, saying, in effect: “You are not alone.”