A country we cannot do without.
As everyone knows, Israel is the one nation on earth whose right to exist is being constantly questioned and challenged. It is the disproportionate target of the United Nations Human Rights Council which devotes the majority of its sessions to attacking the Jewish state while giving the world’s most egregious Human Rights violators a Get Out of Jail Free card. Israel is subject to a worldwide BDS campaign and to the vicious defamation of Israel Apartheid Weeks hosted on our morally debased university campuses. The ideology of the left demonizes Israel as a racist and conquistador nation that must be delegitimized, launching books, blogs, resolutions and flotillas against its very existence. Meanwhile, its Muslim neighbors have vowed to physically erase it from the map of the world, killing indiscriminately, firing rockets at its civil centers with the regularity of a metronome, and preparing for its version of the Final Solution.
Why should this be so? Are we witnessing the geographic displacement of a millennial prejudice from the diaspora to the nation, with Israel as the collective incarnation of the “international Jew”? Is the current assault on Israel merely the contemporary form of the age-old pogrom? Has the West embarked on a political and economic entente with the petro-tyrannies of the Muslim Middle East, selling its soul in the process to a triumphalist Islam, as Bat Ye’or has persuasively argued in Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis and Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide? The answer to such rhetorical questions is self-evident.
But bigotry and baseless aspersion are never openly admitted. Rather, for antisemites and anti-Zionists, Israel is regarded as a geopolitical irritant, a historical mistake, an artificial construct that should never have been established, however validly and legally. For the Quartet negotiators (the UN, The EU, the United States and Russia), and particularly for Britain, France and Germany, it is as if UN Resolution 242, guaranteeing “secure and recognized boundaries,” has no legitimate force. For Islam, Israel is an interloper in the region, despite the indisputable historical fact that Israel and Judea predate the Arab occupation of the Holy Land by more than a thousand years. For the so-called “realist” school of international relations, Israel is a political liability and therefore ultimately dispensable.
Moreover, Israel is by no means a great power. It is by normal census standards sparsely populated, and it covers about as much territory as Wales or New Jersey—as former mayor of New York Ed Koch says, one “might need a magnifying glass to see Israel” in a World Atlas since it could easily “disappear in the crease of a page.” In the larger scheme of things, presumably, its absence would scarcely be noticed.
And yet it may justifiably be claimed that Israel is one of the most necessary countries in the world. It is, to begin with, a haven for the Jewish people from the world’s ancient antipathy—at any rate, as much of a haven as is possible in a region riven by hate and bristling with missiles. It is a testimony to the sense of historical continuity and cultural memory in an age of temporal dissipation. It is a sign of what is possible when a people gathers together and pools its intelligence, courage, obstinacy and talent to create a vibrant pluralist democracy in the midst of ignorance and barbarism. It is the source of innumerable technological, medical and agricultural discoveries and inventions that have immeasurably benefitted the world at large. It is also an object lesson in how to manage a robust economy, running an engine with almost no lull in the output curve. And it is, of course, the spearhead of the democratic West in the war against Islamic terror, receiving and resisting the brunt of the theo-imperialist onslaught against Western institutions, interests and, indeed, its long-term survival.
Those who study the history of civilization and who are disturbed or fascinated by the threatening specter of decline exhibited by our own will find Israel important for another reason. As I contended in The Big Lie, it is difficult to repress the suspicion that ominous forces are working toward our unhappiness and possibly our cultural demise. And I would hazard that many people in the ordinary walks of life are troubled by an inchoate premonition that something has gone terribly wrong with the culture, governed by a political elite without convictions and educated by an academic elite without scruples.
In this context of doubt and apprehension, Israel is necessary because it will tell us who and what we are, that is, assuming we are interested in recognizing our own features. It constitutes a catechism for the West, a trial of values and a test of honor and principle—a test which the West appears to be failing. For the cherubs of political correctness and the fantasists among the intelligentsia cannot abide what Israel ideally exemplifies: the belief in justice and truth, the commitment to a genuine historic purpose and the virtue of unapologetic self-affirmation.
This is not to suggest that Israel is without blemish or that it has not been partially infected by the Western proneness to false hope and political myopia—the Oslo travesty, the disengagement from Gaza and the “peace process” mirage are examples of such lapses, among others. And like any nation on the planet, it has its share of gonifs, opportunists and sell-outs. There is no exemption from the human stain. Nonetheless, there can be no denying that since its founding it has embodied an ideal of heroism, determination, enterprise and spirit rare, if not unprecedented, in both its intensity and concentration. In this respect it is like no other nation on earth.
For this reason, the narrow slip of land between the Jordan River, the Judean hills and the Mediterranean is a kind of litmus strip for the civilization of which it is an intrinsic yet disparate part, to ascertain whether that civilization is viable or deficient, strong or weak, resilient or bankrupt, capable of integrity or inwardly corroded by spiritual indifference and intellectual corruption. In other words, the way in which the West responds to Israel and its ongoing predicaments serves as an infallible indication of civilizational vitality or irremediable decay.
This small nation of six million Jewish citizens—the same number as those who were lost in the unthinkable infamy of the Shoah—demonstrates, for all its flaws, the pluck and vigor, the energy, fortitude and tenacity, that seem at present to be in short supply among the major occidental powers. It is a country that should be celebrated, not condemned; it represents a model we should be shooting for, not shooting at. For in the last analysis, Israel provides an image of the possible while at the same time serving as a touchstone of the real.
Regrettably, we find here perhaps the chief grievance of the Western world, or of those who formulate policy and doctrine and those who climb aboard for the ride, against its tiny outrider in the Middle East. Deep down, at the barometric levels of self-suspicion, an intuition festers. The West knows it is being judged. And it cannot forgive its arbiter.