Daniel G. Saunders

As Israel goes, so the west will go

The Jewish Standard posted a transcript of an article from American philosopher Eric Hoffer from 1968, the year after The Six Day War. The very short article is eerily still relevant and makes clear how little has really changed in Israel’s geo-political position in more than half a century. The last sentence seems most pertinent:

“I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.”

This is still true. In 1968, the threat to Israel was pan-Arab nationalism and vague postcolonialism backed by Soviet Marxist-Leninism. Now, it’s a brutal Islamism and a more developed postcolonial philosophy, aided by the ruthless raison d’etat of Russia and China. Either way, the whole of the West is threatened by this. The difference is that in 1968, most people in the West were pro-Israel, and Western values were still the mainstream of culture. Student protests were ubiquitous (particularly against the Vietnam War), but the content of the courses being taught to them could not be construed as anti-Western.

This is no longer the case. We (the West) no longer have a shared culture or shared values. Our universities teach students to hate the societies they live in (as racist, sexist, colonialist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.) and to attempt to destroy them from within. These theories are now part of what passes for a cultural mainstream in a fractured, postmodern, multicultural society and are unquestioned. Objective truth is decried as something only religious fundamentalists believe in, but anyone challenging an intellectual worldview based around identity politics and radical philosophical subjectivity is cancelled as speaking absolute untruth. As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay argued in Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody, these theories are “known knowns,” ideas that do not need referencing or proving and which can not be questioned because “everyone knows” them to be true.

Outside the academy (but often on campus), Islamist ideas and preachers in the Muslim community can not be challenged by the authorities, lest they be accused of racism and Islamophobia, no matter that moderate Muslims desperately want the authorities to remove extremists.

A populist right-wing counter-culture is equally intolerant and equally skeptical of truth, preferring conspiracy theory, but lacks a theoretical underpinning. It certainly isn’t “conservative” in the sense of “wanting to preserve the culture of the West as it has existed for the last thousand years.”

Once the current generation of leaders retires or dies, there will be nothing to prevent society tearing itself to pieces on these fault lines, ready for countries and empires with fewer scruples than ours and no tolerance for theories of grievance and opposition to step in (Russia, China, Iran).

As Israel goes, so the West will go. The problem of dealing with bad actors on the world stage who don’t care about international law and can afford not to care about the consequences of breaking it is one that the whole of the West faces, but only Israel has these bad actors sitting on its doorstep, firing rockets at it. The West should take note of Israel’s predicament, before it is too late.

About the Author
Daniel Saunders is an office administrator, proofreader and copy editor living in London with his wife. He has a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford and an MA in Library and Information Management. He blogs about Judaism, Israel and antisemitism at Living Jewishly
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