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Mugged by reality

August 21, 2006

Via An Unsealed Room, a great article, though not online, from Mike Diamond in The Daily Express:

WHY MANY ISRAELIS HAVE TURNED RIGHT

I came to Israel from Scotland in 1987. I was a fresh-faced graduate of Glasgow university law faculty. At the time, like many educated liberals with no particular axe to grind, I saw the world through the rosy eyes of vaunted British socialism; I was privileged, I believed, and it was my duty to help those who were not.In Israel I was a member of the “sane left”, conceding that the Palestinians had had a rough deal, deserved justice, respect and a state of their own. I would shake my head in dismay listening to the hard-headed non-compromise of the militant right. I still believed that the world was intrinsically good, and if someone had a grievance, they deserved to be heard. And where I could, I would try to rectify the injustice.

That’s why I got such a shock this week while sitting over lunch with a friend. Just two hours north of where we were, his son was being shot at by Iranian-armed Islamic extremists whose declared aim is to finish off Hitler’s job of eradicating Jews from the face of the earth. Meanwhile, two thousand miles away, London was trying to come to terms with a group of British citizens who’d planned to kill hundreds of their fellow countrymen.

“When you have an ideology as powerful and uncompromising as militant Islam,” I heard myself say, “…the only way to deal with it is to bring it to its knees.” My colleague, a respected professor of economics – who was recently boycotted for nothing more than being Israeli – nodded. “Naively believing Nazi’s could be reasoned with, Europe tried appeasement, fatefully underestimating the depth of their ideological conviction.” I shook my head barely able to believe what was going through my mind. “Only a massive defeat was enough to wake the Germans from their power-craved stupor and only when faced with total annihilation did they have the courage to ask, maybe we were wrong?”

I sat back in disbelief. What had happened to the understanding, sympathetic socialist I’d been until a few weeks ago? How could I, the confirmed pacifist, be talking in such terms?

Then it occurred to me, it’s not just me. Almost everyone I know in Israel who was once on the left, who once believed in peace, dialogue and equality for the Palestinian people, has shifted over to the right. For days now I’ve been trying to understand.

I expect the first thing was our withdrawal from Lebanon six years ago and from Gaza last year. The return of territory was supposed to open a door of trust, to bring us closer to our neighbours. I scoffed at the right’s predictions of calamity. But I was wrong. Instead of bringing us closer, the land became a launching pad for missiles aimed at our towns and civilians. The right said “we told you so,” but I was still an optimist.

But then the latest conflagration erupted and my perspective changed. In the first 2-3 days there was some sympathy for Israel’s position, but within a week, the world’s press – usually reflecting if not sculpting public opinion – had turned against us. Once again, we were portrayed – gleefully it seemed – by the BBC, CNN and others, as aggressors fighting a brutal war against poor, helpless and innocent victims. Newspapers filled with photos of dead Lebanese children, cynically exploited by the well-oiled Hezbollah propaganda machine as another tactic in their global Jihad. The press, all too willing to cooperate, reflected a moral equivalence between a terrorist organization that rejoices at kidnapping innocent journalists, bombing embassies and hijacking aircraft, and a punch-drunk democracy trying to save its citizens from the mass murder and extermination that Hezbollah’s victory would entail. Even if they didn’t intend moral equivalence, they bunched us all together; Israelis and Arabs are at it again – troublemakers disrupting the world’s stability. Few had the courage to describe a democracy fighting against a terrorist group set on its destruction.

When I realized that Jews are back to where we’ve been to many times before – fighting for our existence in a world that perceives us as an irritation – like many Israelis, I turned hard right. Today, Israeli conventional wisdom is probably something like this:

The Arabs hate us and always have, and so does most of delusional Europe. It doesn’t matter what we do, we’ll always be the scapegoat for the world’s woes. But we’ve been in this position before and we’ve learned the hard way that we can only rely on ourselves. So screw the world, and let’s get on with stopping these Jew-hating fascists in Lebanon. Sooner or later – probably later – Europe will wake up and realize that the bad guys are the ones who are trying to kill us all – not demonized Israel, that is consistently blamed for their wrath.

I wish I could go back to what I used to believe, but that would be naïve. As the world has seen before, evil – like that of Islamofascism – can only be defeated by overwhelming force. Today I firmly believe that good-intentioned appeasement only strengthens it.

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