Irony can be pretty ironic.
At the very moment when the Western world is starting to awaken, lethargically, fitfully and often resentfully, to Islamism’s deadly and for-keeps global offensive . . . the world grows weary of Israel.
The two are not contradictory. The United States tolerated France in the person of Charles de Gaulle from 1940 to 1946, and again from 1958 to 1968. Through all those years, his attitude, and the stance of those who presided during his interregnum, was simple. France is all that matters and France will do as France pleases. Finally, America decided that France simply wasn’t worth the aggravation, and acted accordingly.
Can something similar happen to Israel?
Depends on how Israel behaves. At the moment, the world has had enough of Israeli self-obsession, arrogance, flaunting, kvetching and hectoring. Mr. Netanyahu has been at it for many years. Is anyone beyond his personal Amen Corner, fractions of the American Right and a Congress intent on embarrassing President Obama (and the Presidency) really interested?
Sometimes, when you know what a person is going to say before he or she says it for the ten thousandth time, you tune it out.
Yes, anti-Semitism ye have always with you, and the more you tolerate, the more you get – because it becomes socially acceptable, an attractive outlet for economic frustration, and therefore politically expedient. But a lot of anti-Semites fought Hitler. Can something analogous happen again?
Or, to ask it differently, can Israel set aside its flaunting Me-First-ism long enough to participate in a global alliance in which Israel is only one partner, and not the most important?
What global alliance?
Now we come to the crux of the biscuit. An alliance requires allies. An alliance doesn’t always require some domineering leader, or even great unity. Leadership takes many forms, and all the unity that’s required is that it work well enough to do the job.
The job, in this case, is not “containing” or “managing” global Islamism, but destroying it as a world-significant movement.
What might be required of Israel?
First, a new, quiet, come-let-us-reason-together global educational effort, addressing the global threat, bereft of Me-First-ism and We-Told-You So. Can this be done? Worth a try. De Gaulle rallied the people of France. Churchill and FDR rallied the world. Sadly, Mr. Netanyahu has chosen for decades to play de Gaulle. This is unlikely to change. Can any of Israel’s present and potential leaders bring it about?
Worth an election. Or maybe just a “Help Wanted” ad.
If a serious de facto, perhaps single-issue alliance forms, “Been There/Done That America” will not lead it. Neither will Europe, to update a famous poem, “that old bitch with a new set of teeth.” Neither will Russia; that she should deal with her own Islamist problems may be enough. The quiet center of this alliance may well be . . . China.
For decades now, China has been reversing the old imperial dictum that “Trade follows the flag.”
And that flag is beginning to show, world-wide.
In the Indian Ocean and adjacent waters, where the Chinese Navy has used anti-piracy to learn how to operate far from home.
In Africa, where a million Chinese now reside permanently (and marry out?) and Beijing quietly brings in its security forces and “advisers” to protect their investments and to “assist” local governments and African organizations.
In Latin America, where the Monroe Doctrine that kept Britain, Germany and Russia out of hemispheric domination for two centuries, now silently acquiesces to China’s growing presence.
And of course, in the Islamic world. The flag follows investment. Including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This may or may not turn out to be the Chinese Century. Certainly, the more China expands, the greater deference most of the world will pay her. And if China uses the Islamist threat (which festers in her own western provinces) to increase her penetration and influence – she’ll just be the latest to avail herself of an imperial strategy that started long ago.
Call it: People with money and power, fishing in troubled waters.
But whatever the Chinese ambition, it is clear that the ultimate rejection of Islamism must come from the Islamic world itself. Forget Arab Spring. The liberal types are neither strong enough nor ruthless enough. Forget “Democracy Dominos.” Not even a basic order can be imposed on this chaos by some Western grand strategy. And Ataturks are rare.
So how might this mass rejection come about? Perhaps we could speed it along by treating those Muslims who do not partake of Islamism, a little better. No, a lot better. In Europe and America, this means a stern discrimination between enemies and noncombatants. Do what you must, with finality, to the enemy. But protect and advance with equal finality your innocent Islamic citizens and residents. Perhaps, in the end, both Islamophobia and Muslim religious insanity will atrophy together.
For Israel, the same. And might this wooing of the Islamic world go beyond the present array of open-secret co-operation and genuinely secret activities and understandings? A wise man with considerable experience in the Arab world once told me, “It’s less important what they say in private than what they’re willing to say in public.”
And finally, might this public activity include an independent non-Islamist Palestine in Gaza and about ninety-five percent of the West Bank, with its capital in some wondrous new city fit for a new country, a Palestine guaranteed by Israel, Jordan and Egypt and other Arab states?
With Chinese “peacekeepers,” perhaps?
Next week: Jewish Women Playing American Football. Shabbat Shalom.