Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
For more than 70 years the West with some few exceptions has mischaracterized and mishandled the Arab world’s aggression against Israel. The latest barrage of riots and rockets is drawing the same old diplomatic song-and-dance routine that camouflages the Western nations’ despicable moral equivalence of aggressor and victim, and its callous concern for their own interests even if it means empowering terrorist murderers and endangering the only liberal-democratic state in the Middle East.
The latest example of Hamas’ indiscriminate terrorist violence, and Israel’s robust defense of its territory and citizens has elicited an encore of the same old song that the previous three conflicts started by Hamas did. A riot on the Temple Mount over specious claims of Israeli attacks on the al Aqsa Mosque, and a property dispute over Arab squatters on land owned by Jews since 1875 provided Hamas with the pretext for launching nearly 4000 rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians. Meanwhile Iran, smelling the stench of appeasement emanating from the White House, is egging on its clients whom it has supplied with weapons and technological know-how.
This sequence of reactions is familiar: the usual calls on Israel to make concessions for a cease-fire (one took effect May 21); the anti-Semitic slander from U.S. Congressmen, pundits, academics, entertainers, and Leftist outfits; the UN’s hypocritical condemnations from thug-states sitting on the Human Rights Council; and the craven bullying by some Arab states that don’t dare say a word about China’s concentration camps filled with a million Muslim Uighurs who are being deprogrammed from their Islamic faith. And of course, we hear the whole Orwellian vocabulary of “apartheid,” “racist,” “occupiers,” “settlements,” “disproportionate response,” “war crimes,” “cycle of violence,” “two-state solution,” and “peace process.”
The commentary, when it’s not writing what the “woke” call “dog-whistles” for post-Holocaust anti-Semitism, recycles all the assumptions of the “New World Order,” to use George H.W. Bush’s name for the “rules-based international order”: one “where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind––peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law.”
Two delusions underlie this idea: one, that multinational global institutions can keep the peace and maintain order, thus making possible the eventual evolution of diverse peoples into liberal-democratic, free-market, tolerant nations joined together by a “harmony of interests” such as peace, freedom, and prosperity. The century-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs with its record of failure just one of many examples from history that challenge such assumptions of a “common cause” and “universal aspirations.”
The second is that there even exist “universal aspirations” that in fact turn out to reflect the social-economic-political orders of Western civilization. In 2012, the president of Egypt, the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, retorted to Barack Obama’s UN speech that repeated this New World Order mantra. “I am convinced,” Obama had orated, “that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in the world.” Morsi responded, “We expect from others as they expect from us: that they respect our cultural specificities and religious references and not to seek to impose concepts or cultures that are not acceptable to us or politicize certain issues and use them as a pretext to intervene in the affairs of others.” Apparently, goods like “stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity” are not as “universal” after all.
Indeed, the last twenty years have shown us that for many peoples, fidelity to their god and his commandments supersedes the ideals, values, and aspirations of mere mortal infidels––a not unreasonable conclusion now that the West has driven faith into the ghetto of the subjective, leaving our notions like “unalienable rights” and “freedom” mere contingent cultural preferences that, as multicultural Westerner preach, cannot be exalted over any other.
Yet this flawed assumption of “universal aspirations,” whether sincere or mere camouflage for pursuing our national interests, has warped the West’s approach to revanchist Arab violence against Israel. In many ways, these idealistic views today are more dangerous than the grotesque slurs of Leftists, which are so far removed from any historical reality or moral coherence that they recall Hitler’s “Big Lie,” one so “colossal” that nobody would believe anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
The well-meaning, idealistic purveyors of New World Order shibboleths, on the other hand, are often unconscious, insidious underminers of Israel’s security.
Here’s an example from Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake, a usually reasonable commentator on foreign policy. He rightly notes the futility of reprising the same mistakes of U.S. diplomacy after the previous conflicts between Hamas and Israel. But rather than learning from seven decades of diplomatic failure, with the few successes coming only after the defeat of Arab armies in war, he still assumes that the U.S. president can achieve a diplomatic solution to this long conflict: “Biden needs to think creatively about how to rid Gaza of Hamas. This is not just a priority for Israel — it is a necessary condition for Palestinians to achieve prosperity and dignity.”
Champions of socialism like to say it hasn’t really failed for over a century, but just has never been implemented correctly. So too Lake assumes that diplomacy, particularly led by the U.S. president, is the way to resolve the conflict if only done properly. So, he counsels Biden to partner with Egypt instead of Turkey or Qatar, as John Kerry did in his futile engagement in the region during the 2014 Hamas aggression.
The problem is, there’s no superior diplomatic technique that will make a difference with an aggressor who’s willing to kill his own coreligionists, and is indifferent to scattering rockets over towns and neighborhoods filled with civilians, in the pursuit of aims radically different from those of our civilization.
But notice another shibboleth of the foreign policy establishment: that the lack of material and political goods such as prosperity and democracy are the cause of the violence, since people who lack “prosperity and dignity” are prone to “acting out” with irrational violence. Hence Lake advises that “Biden should seek to revive Palestinian civil society and electoral politics.”
What “civil society” is there under the rule of Hamas? Where are the organizations and “little platoons” free of the controls and strictures of Islam and the Palestinian Authority? Does a totalizing faith like Islam––that claims to be sufficient unto itself for guiding and directing every dimension of human life whether personal, cultural, economic, political, or social–– allow people the freedom and independence that is necessary for a true civil society?
There is no doubt that many Palestinian Arabs desire such freedom. But the rioting and lynchings by Arab Israeli citizens, the freest Muslims in the whole Middle East, suggest that Islam is still the dominant force in Muslim identity. And in any case, “civil society” can’t be created by foreign governments, but springs organically from free people who live by principles such as the equality of all before the law, and the freedom of speech and religion.
Lake’s well-meaning suggestion is naïve, particularly after the failures of the Arab Spring and our nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact is, there is not as yet a sufficient number of Palestinian Arabs who want “prosperity and dignity” more than they want to see Israel destroyed and Allah’s will be done. Only Western materialists and secularists who diminish or ignore completely the spiritual imperatives of faith can cling to the notion that living like us will solve all the world’s problems, or that we even have the means and ability to promote those changes among peoples with very different beliefs, ideals, and motives.
Indeed, Donald Trump’s success in the region, achievements that that Biden’s team is systematically destroying, began with rejecting the fossilized institutional received wisdom about the Jewish-Arab conflict. It turns out that the Palestinian Arabs lack of their own nation––a desire they could have fulfilled multiple times over the last century––were not the impediment to peace and the source of the region’s disorder. This idea mainly served both the diplomatic “peace process,” which has turned into a diplomatic grift; and the Palestinian Arab hatred and addiction to international funds, along with the Western establishment’s appeasement of terrorists, and chronic unjust treatment of Israel.
But Trump rejected that foreign policy paradigm. He simply supported Israel like the important ally it is. He brokered the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and four Muslim nations. He publicly declared the U.S.’s unqualified support; discarded the moral idiocy of the “cycle of violence” and a “peace process” based on Israeli concessions; moved our embassy to Jerusalem; cut off the PA from U.S. funds, and otherwise treated Israel like a sovereign nation and valued ally, rather than the international pariah created by the Democrats and Europeans hostage to their multiculturalist Left and separatist Muslim immigrants. Finally, Trump understood that the Arabs were and are the aggressors, and Israel is simply exercising the right that every sovereign nation has to defend itself.
And at least one Palestinian Muslim––Bassem Eid, who was born in Jerusalem and spent 30 years in a UN refugee camp, and founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group––understands the true causes of the chronic violence, and the toll it has taken on Palestinian Arabs and the larger Arab world:
Obsessing over the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been a disaster for the Arab world: it has held back our development for generations and cost the Palestinian people dearly. Israel is still here — and isn’t going anywhere. The Arab world is large and there is plenty of room for all of us. We have been blessed with natural resources that could provide bountiful opportunities. Instead of focusing our wealth and talent on creating a better life for us, our leaders have spent decades fighting Israel. It is long past time for all Arabs to stop wasting resources trying to conquer a tiny country that we will never defeat. Only then will we have peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, Western progressives and Leftists cannot let go of their irrational hatred of Israel, or their fealty to worn-out foreign policy received wisdom.
So, of course, once back in power the Democrats, hostage to their “woke” Left and still addled by Trump Derangement Syndrome, are undoing Trump’s success. No surprise, then, that a region relatively quiet for four years has seen swarms of rockets indiscriminately lobbed against Israeli civilians, and the old, outdated song-and-dance of Western diplomacy once again is misreading causes and motives and offering dangerous advice.
As usual, it will be the Israelis who pay the bill for that decrepit routine with the blood of her citizens.
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