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Reader comment on item: Israel's Unnecessary War

Submitted by Paul Z (United States), Jul 18, 2006 at 11:58


Deutsche Welle
has an interesting little roundup of European press reaction to Israel's campaign against Hezbollah, most of which appears to condemn the Israeli actions as "disproportionate." As a corollary, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (of Spanish Flee fame) went on record stating that the results of the Israeli response to the agents of radicalization, fanaticism, conflict and instability will be "radicalization, fanaticism, conflict and instability." The European reaction is instructive for several reasons: First, because it is indicative of the extent to which nationalism and national feeling has declined – there is simply little understanding of why a state would seek so dramatically to protect its own. Second, because it illustrates the European mindset on Islamism – that it is indestructible, and by implication, that its agents cannot be repelled or thwarted. Third, because it lets us know, again, that the Europeans do not see Israel as one of its own – even though, in the cultural and historical sense, it is – and that they blame Israel in a manner reminiscent of those who would blame a provocatively-dressed woman for her rape.

European received wisdom is wrong on all counts.

The first prejudice is a by-product of the European nations' increasing sense of their own irrelevance. (See, for example, the idiot sub-genre of Falklands War cinema and literature in the UK, in which British artistes endeavor to re-cast that plainly just fight into their conception of Vietnam.) They recoil just the same when the United States seeks to protect its own. Its causes are many: a revulsion, perhaps, at the perception that nationalism slaughtered the generation of the Great War; perhaps a by-product of the ascent of the EU imperium; or perhaps a psychological means of coping with the still-recent loss of empire. Things are easier when you don't care. The loss of pride is a pity, and the loss of honor still more: but the wound is only felt when others show virtues you've abandoned.

The second prejudice is a re-casting of an old Continental European pathology, which for the past century has rolled over and sought accommodation with the most dire threats to itself. First fascism appeared the wave of the future, and in its advance gained adherents of surprising vigor in much of Europe – or at the least acquiescence on a scale that some modern European polities, France chief among them, have been at pains to deny and forget. Then, when fascism evaporated, the new existential threat was communism: and it, too, wielded an enduring appeal to the politicized masses. And, like fascism, the romance with communism did not disappear until its fountainhead did. Now, for the third time in a century, we see the leading classes of Europe stand in defense of the latest existential threat to themselves: Islamism. All their prior fascinations would have annihilated them, and this one is no different. But as before, this threat is unstoppable; it is supported by the people; it is the wave of the future; and it must be accommodated. And as before, there is the combination of the sane remnant of European culture plus America to remind them of Simone Weil's dictum: "Who were the fools who spread the story that brute force cannot kill ideas? Nothing is easier. And once they are dead they are no more than corpses."

The third prejudice is commonly described as an updated anti-Semitism, exercising its cold grip upon the European psyche. It may well be: but it is also an indicator of the demise of European identity, and with it the fellow-feeling that commonly arises upon the sight of one's own. The state of Israel is, it is true, unique in the world – there are no Jewish states elsewhere. It is also true that its population is drawn from all the corners of the world where Jews have been persecuted and exiled. But its political and social culture, mechanisms, and mores are explicitly drawn from European models. This is no Turkey, nor Jordan, wherein European institutions are an overlay on a culture fundamentally at odds with the values that animate those institutions. Israel is Western – and if the West condemns it, it is not because Israel has broken ranks with the West, but because the West fails to apprehend itself.

The Israeli war on Hezbollah will continue, as well it should. In a sane world, there would no longer be any reason for civilized societies to endure the mere existence of Islamist organizations like it, like Hamas – or like the Mahdi Army in Iraq. But this is not a sane world. And so, when plainly evil entities are subjected to crushing blows and punishing assaults, and when those under threat from those entities complain about it, those prosecuting the war should take note – and redouble their efforts.

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