Addressing the reasons for the genuinely disproportionate global interest in Israel means comparing and contrasting. To other wars. To other death tolls. Hamas to the IRA. The IDF’s methods to other militaries’ around the world. But when massive bodycounts, actual genocides and truly brutal occupations are used during conversations in defence of Israel the supporter of Palestine buries his head in the sand and says ‘whataboutery, whataboutery’. It matters not that all the attention focused on Israel and ignorance of other much bigger conflicts are probably ominous manifestations of cultural antisemitism embedded in the fabric of western civilisation. Comparisons and statistics are whataboutery, and to be dismissed as Zionist propaganda.
In defending themselves from charges of antisemitism Israel’s enemies resort to the same old excuses. Commonly heard is the relatively understandable objection to a person’s tax dollars being spent on weapons that maim and murder civilians. I support Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas aggression, but I also have libertarian sympathies and can appreciate if people don’t like the idea of their money being spent on things they consider unethical, immoral or profligate. A person might be a supporter of abortion but it is wrong for them to expect others, for whom abortion equates to a nightmarish holocaust of the unborn, to contribute financially to something they find so abhorrent. This appeal to liberty is about the strongest argument that I’ve heard from a western Palestine supporter.
Their other objections seldom stand up. Many are as historically illiterate on the history of this conflict as it is possible to be while still holding an opinion. In my own country a decent proportion of pro-Palestine supporters conflate Israel-Palestine with the IRA’s ‘struggle’ against the British, filling in the gaps in their knowledge as a conspiracy theorist would, complete with an imagined, agenda-suiting narrative, binary morality, and the heavy-handed use of favoured undergraduate buzzwords like imperialism and Zionism. I have met Palestine supporters in Ireland who had never heard of the Ottoman Empire, much less knew anything about it. The idea that Palestine is a country with a long history and that rich Jews from Europe, with the help of sympathetic and guilt-ridden Germans, arrived after the Second World War with bulldozers to begin the expulsion of Palestinians from their ancient ancestral homeland is frighteningly commonplace.
Hamas’ charter contains the following line: ‘The time (of Resurrection) will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: o Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!’ These are the people Israel is expected to make peace with. Is it at all possible that for all their talk of peacemaking European and American leaders know what would happen if they were to isolate Israel and refuse to assist it economically and militarily? Of course they do. An Israel forsaken by its allies would soon find itself circled by vultures, vultures that have been humiliated by the seeming ease in which Israel has established a liberal, democratic, prosperous nation with cutting edge universities, a booming tech industry and world class research and development facilities. All this in mere decades, while the Arab world (with few exceptions) has stagnated and regressed. Even cities like Dubai and Doha, while producing extraordinary wealth and impressive architectural marvels, fall way short culturally. Qatari and Emirati musicians and novelists don’t fill up concert halls and win literary prizes. Israeli artists and scientists on the other hand are ubiquitous and world-renowned.
If Israel were to be abandoned by the west it would almost certainly be attacked by many of the surrounding countries and probably a few from further afield. A bellicose Iran, an ascendant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a perpetually antisemitic Saudi Arabia and a Turkey which appears increasingly to be disavowing its secular foundations would be very unpleasant neighbours for a weakened Israel. No doubt Israel would have the means to defend itself for a time, but a war against such a united enemy would likely culminate in Pyrrhic victory for the Islamists and a terrible cost in Jewish life. Am I being paranoid or fanciful in my predictions? I think not. Do Arabs and Iranians possess some special humanitarian quality absent in Germans, Serbians and Hutus? We already know the Turks are capable of committing genocide. To think it couldn’t happen again is folly. As history has shown time and time again all peoples are capable of such crimes.
When I visited the Middle East I saw copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion being sold by streetside book vendors. These books are bestsellers in the Arab world. It’s not hard to find vile condemnations of Jews in mainstream Arab media. A quick search on YouTube will attest to this. This kind of paranoia and hateful propaganda is a precursor to ethnic cleansing. The language and the literature of genocide exists in the Arab world, make no mistake about it. To concerned Americans and Europeans I say this: philosophically you may object to some of your money being spent fighting a war in Gaza, and I respect that even if I don’t agree with it, but take pause to consider if the things you wish for might not be worse than the status quo, and far, far more costly.