Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ease of Making Demands


With all the discussions of various peace plans for the Middle East, one important issue, one not having to do with the size that Israel should be, is usually overlooked: The ease with which demands, of any size, of any nature, are made of the Jewish state.

In complaining about those demands that give the impression as if Israel were a sprawling empire to rival the old Mongol one in breadth, while the Arabs act as if merely agreeing to sit opposite the Jews at the negotiations table were a concession beyond price for them, the reply given by the anti-Zionists is usually on these lines: “What do you expect? You’re the powerful, oppressing party, while the Palestinians [Arab colonists in Palestine. –ziontruth] are the weak and oppressed. It is only just that the powerful oppressor must make concessions to the weak and oppressed.”

I could point out counterexamples. For all the decades when Lebanon, riven by sectarian strife, was brought down to the status of a Syrian fief in all but name, our justice-seeking supporters of the weak and oppressed had nary a peep against the powerful, oppressing Syrian state, not even a “Free Lebanon” sticker campaign; and that is just one among so many examples. However, my purpose here is not to regale the reader with more stories of the world’s hypocrisy, which, as far as I am concerned, is a given. My concern is with the way Israel attracts such easily made demands, and especially why Israel and Zionist Jews do not stand up to that ease of making demands as strongly as they should. I opine that the state of affairs is a consequence of the Western mode of thinking.

The Hypercritical West

Some may think that a criticism of the West will now follow. It will not. Democracy, science and technology born of the Western tradition are among the good things Israel has taken aboard from its inception, and not for a moment do I think the Jewish state should turn away from them. However, it must be acknowledged that good things taken with a system usually come with the bad things also, and this explains why Israel is beset with much of the same national-political irrationality that is found in the politics of other Western states.

The late and unlamented Arab writer Edward Said asserted throughout his entire book Orientalism—an intellectual holding cell carefully crafted to make any defense of the West synonymous with justification of colonialism—that the West never reflected on itself and never took care to study other cultures and value systems unless there were imperial gains to be had from it. This strikes me as a projection on Said’s part, since such a thesis fits the Arab/Islamic world far better, while the critics of Orientalism have pointed out a Western objective and self-critical tradition going all the way back to Herodotus. The European slave trade in Africans was as bad as the Arab, but the Western world also produced the Abolitionist movement and even fought a civil war in America to free the slaves, while the Arab world has yet to acknowledge their role in the slave trade, and outlawed slavery only recently (Saudi Arabia did so in 1961) under Western influence, with clandestine slavery still in existence to this day.

The Western self-critical tradition is an old one, and this is something the chief anti-Western alliance, that of the Far Left and Islamic imperialism, knows only too well, which is the reason they have put it to their best advantage by advancing an overblown version of it. So steeped (contra Said) is the West in contemplating the Other that looking at itself as part of the world has become either impossible or forbidden. Westerners are taught about their legacy of colonialism and oppression of indigenous peoples, and they are taught to view all non-Western cultures as precious treasures of lore that need to be preserved at all costs from the onslaught of “McWorld neo-colonialism”; but the idea that Westerners might be indigenous peoples themselves, and that their own culture might be under global-imperialist encroachment and worth preserving from that, either fails to cross their minds or, if it does, is ruthlessly put down as thoughtcrime under the rules of political correctness.

In the hypocritical discourse on Western politics we can clearly see a pattern of mental capitulation that makes possible the physical subjugation of old, established indigenous peoples without the need for military invasions and horrible battles. A truly anti-racist idea would be that, as we are all human beings, there is no reason at all for a particular group of human beings to be perpetual colonists and oppressors by nature, to be excluded from the possibility of being indigenous peoples under the threat of colonization. But like uncovering the fraud of the non-Jewish “Palestinian nation” to reveal the truth of Arab imperialist aggression against the Jewish state, the idea of Islamic colonists oppressing the indigenous of the West is far too inconvenient to be allowed. The vested interests of the Far Left and the Islamic imperialists demand that the West, including Israel, be cast as “Oppressors now, oppressors tomorrow, oppressors forever!” And, consequentially, that those “oppressors” acquiesce to any attacks waged against them and their culture on their own soil, accepting them as atonement for a past and present of natural oppressorhood.

Thus it has become acceptable for the Western world to say that a blonde female reporter like Lara Logan should never have trod the streets of Cairo, for it is the culture there to sexually assault a woman uncovered and unaccompanied by a male protector; while the reciprocal idea, that the Muslim immigrants in Western Europe must leave that “culture” behind and adapt to the laws and customs of the new lands, is decried as “racism” and “cultural imperialism.” In the introduction to the movie Empire of the Sun, the narrator remarks how the British possessions in pre-WWII China were made to look just like the homeland with British architecture and churches all around, and no one disputes that that was colonialism—yet even speaking of the North African no-go zones in France is grounds for being hauled on charges of hate speech. Anti-colonialism, then, looks very much like a one-way, anti-Western street.

The Zionists’ Cultural Deference

When the anti-Zionists advance the Big Lie of Zionism as a Euro-settler colonial movement, they base it like all Big Lies on a grain of truth: That the thinking in 19th-century Europe was the catalyst for the renewal of Zionism, a renewal that had actually begun to be seriously mulled by Jews in both Eastern Europe and Yemen following the catastrophes of the 17th century (the Cossack Rebellion in Poland and the Mawza Decrees in Yemen, decimating both communities). Zionists who were also assimilated Jews (i.e. no longer informed by an Orthodox Jewish upbringing), such as Herzl, approached the question of the Arabs with a typical Western ambivalence: In his Altneuland, Herzl reasoned that the Arabs in Palestine would be grateful for the technological advances a renewed Jewish presence would bring, and at the same time he exhibited a cultural deference to the Arabs as being “as the Jews once were,” in Biblical times.

That was a common attitude at the time. T. E. Lawrence was so enamored with Arab culture as to dress up in Bedouin attire, and the Polish Jew Leopold Weiss went even more extreme by turning his back on the Jewish people, converting to Islam and changing his name to Muhammad Assad, all on the grounds that he perceived the Islamic way of life, culture and clothing to be as the Jews used to be long, long ago. But even the staunch Zionists among the Jews deferred to Arab culture, at the same time as they regarded the Arabs as sworn enemies. The members of the Guard (HaShomer), the Jewish self-defense force operating prior to WWI, had the job of keeping Jewish life and property safe from Arab thieves and robbers, but many of them were photographed in Arab garb and took pride in their knowledge of Bedouin lore. The need to defer to Arab culture as a “remnant of the original Israelite way of life“ was felt by many Jewish returners from Europe, even while they set up a state on Western lines.

It is only today that this cultural deference is set to end, mainly because the majority of Israeli Jews are now of Arab-world extraction, no longer harboring the ambivalence that white people have toward Arab culture. Yet its after-effects are still being felt, and may take a while to wear off. The self-confidence of a majority Sephardi Israel has yet to assert itself; as of this writing, Israeli Jewish thinking is still largely tied to the Western hypercritical view that does not welcome the thought that we may be the indigenous and the other side the colonists. Because of this, the outside world is primed to make demands so easily of the Jewish state.

Holding Our Own

I opened with calling it an important issue. If so far it seems there is nothing but academic rambling and intellectual one-upmanship to it, now is the time to make the practical ramifications clear.

When, about a month before 9/11, a Sbarro pizza parlor in Jerusalem was hit by an Arab suicide-murderer, with a toll of 19 dead and 140 wounded, the anti-Zionist Progressive Left in its usual show of sympathy said the Israelis had better stop whining about not being able to eat pizza safely while the [faux-]Palestinians had to worry about surviving to the next day because of the occupation. Here is the view of the conflict as it is rigged against Israel: The view that the Jews have, at best, security needs to be considered, while the Arabs in Palestine have legitimate grievances to be addressed and dreams of freedom to be fulfilled. It is the view that any concessions the Israeli Jews make are cut-downs on their conveniences and luxuries, while the Arabs can concede nothing, because it is their necessities of life they would be conceding.

Again, this view plays out in the West outside of Israel. The European is not indulged when he says those women in black covered up to look like Darth Vader are an offensive sight to him, for his demand is that Muslim women give up their “inalienable rights” for the sake of his “convenience.” (The fact is the burka has been under attack even in the Muslim world, for the same reason as in the West: Because its cover facilitates criminal activity.) The ease of making demands, then, plainly rests upon this unequal view that one side merely wants to preserve its conveniences while the other is standing up for its non-negotiable necessities.

And it all goes back to one’s self-view. So long as self-negation and cultural deference is the norm, there will be no impetus for resisting attacks, attacks that cannot even be properly named for fear of the R-word. In Israel’s case, the romantic image of the local Arabs as people who have lived unchanged on this land for generations, preserving the Biblical way of life, is the vehicle of self-negation and cultural deference preventing Israeli Jews from holding their own with confidence. The case for the rightfulness of Zionism can be made from many angles, but as long as Zionists are hesitant in confronting the attack on Zionism as a “relic of Western colonialism,” as a “foreign European implant on this land,” that mode of attack will continue, and it will win more and more hearts and minds for the delegitimization of the Jewish state.

This is not a call for abandoning all the other arguments for Zionism. Most of them can be used together, as they do not contradict. However, regardless of which argument one prefers, I call upon Zionist Jews to build their self-confidence by recognizing themselves as the indigenous people of Palestine who therefore have no more reason to defer to the Arabs than a Quechua Indian has to defer to Spanish culture. I can tell you, from my experience, that the transformation in thinking once this has been done is tremendous: No longer does the defender of Israel squirm or apologize for anything Israel has done, but now speaks from the same position of unapologetic confidence from which he was previously attacked.

The Jewish nationalist who argues from the standpoint of the Jews being the indigenous Palestinians is a new creature even when he brings up one of the many other arguments for Zionism. He gives the message that concessions on Israel’s part are not something that can be taken for granted, and that the demands of the Israeli Jews reflect necessities and not mere conveniences. Above all, he does not approach the discussion with an air of owing the other party anything; once the usual hue and cry of “Zionist racism” is exhausted, what is left is an unprecedented amount of respect, even by our enemies, and that is definitely a better position than what has been beforehand.

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