Israel, Campus Unreality and Democratic RealityGuest Post by Joey Tartakovsky
My mother, past president of the Berkeley-Oakland Feminist Socialist Organization, is no stranger to the zany world of campus politics. Protesting Vietnam in the late 1960s, she encountered radicals of all stripes. But Israel, she recalls, was never one of their causes. Now, all campus radicals, no matter their inspiration—socialists, animal rights activists, ethnic racists, radical greens, alien cults—seem to have a problem with Israel.
Compare the “free Palestine” movement with the “free Tibet” movement to illustrate the sheer campus brutality against Israel. Professors do not offer lunchtime lectures ‘objectively’ explaining how terrible China is. There is no divestment from China campaign. There is no academic boycott of China. Casual anti-China brickbats aren't hurled out by professors in the Environmental Studies or Dramatic Arts departments. Even at Tibetan freedom concerts, rare would be the attendee that declared China a fundamentally illegitimate country and demanded its abolition.
The calls to abandon our only ally in the Middle East and the foul apologies for terrorism are testaments to the intellectual corruption of the academy. While chanting about peace and justice in the Middle East, the campus turns a blind eye to the world’s ghastliest conflicts, like the Congo war, whose butcher’s bill exceeds Israel-Palestinian fighting by a factor of one-thousand. Upper-middle-class revolutionaries stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, yet ignore the ethnic cleansing of 300,000 of them by Kuwait after they cheered Saddam Hussein. In four years at UC Santa Barbara, I never once heard someone explain why Palestinian Arabs have no rights in Lebanon, but why in Israel they sit on the Supreme Court, serve as Ambassadors and lead parties in the Israeli parliament.
What’s interesting is that the most outspoken are not students, but activist professors, who exploit their position of privilege to preach. It is unfortunate that they were hired in the first place, because they will ensure ideological conformity for years to come in their classrooms and departments. As consolation, I note that their unwillingness to take the American side in any dispute—in fact, their proud hostility towards American principles and interests—has ensured that no U.S. policymaker will ever take them seriously. This is how it should be.
America supports Israel because Israel resembles America. They share common strategic interests, common democratic principles and common jihadist enemies. Some identify the U.S.-Israel alliance as the product of a “Jewish lobby,” a view popular in Cairo and Riyadh and Paris. But do these types really find it strange that Americans are less than enamored of the Palestinians after Americans watched the West Bank erupt in celebration on 9/11? How do they think Americans should respond as they watch Palestinians deploy the same barbaric method of suicide bombing practiced on them by bin Laden? Does our government share intelligence with Iran, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority—or with Israel? Why? In the new war, medieval Islamic aggressors seek to humiliate and bloody the United States, and it is clear where the allegiances lie in the Middle East. It resembles the alignments in the Fascist-Democratic and Communist-Democratic wars. Between the U.S. and al-Qaeda there is no peace process, only a war process, which ends when one side is defeated and demoralized. So it is with Israel and Fatah and Hamas.
Yasir Arafat has left this world. He was the billionaire godfather of modern terrorism, pioneer of school hostage-takings, multiple plane hijackings and suicide bombings. He never stopped calling for jihad, he stole $900 million in public funds between 1995-2002, and he was a failure to his people. After decades of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” he did so one last time by leaving the 2000 Camp David talks. Some claimed that Israel never really made an offer; others insisted it was a most generous deal. But the terms of the deal were never made public, and so it remained subject to debate. Until now. With the publication of his book Missing Peace, Ambassador Dennis Ross put in print the terms of the Camp David deal, which Clinton personally read to both sides. Guess what? It was exactly what Barak and Clinton said it was: 95% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem, dismantlement of all settlements save three blocs contiguous to Israel, limited right of return and a $30 billion compensation package.
The Oslo era is over. Israel has resolved to act unilaterally, a wise and overdue decision. This is now Israel’s policy: exit the Gaza Strip, build a fence and kill the terrorists. Israel has every right to hunt those who murder its citizens as surely as we hunt bin Laden and al-Zarqawi. Terrorists have no right to trial or due process nor protection from the Geneva Conventions. Israel owes the Palestinians nothing except the right to live in their own independent state. However cruel it may sound, the truth is that Palestine will never really be free. Israeli occupation will eventually end, yes, but its replacement? The character of the future government of Palestine will resemble, depending on the outcome of the impending civil war, lawlessness or theocratic tyranny, or something in between, the only certainty being an oppression rooted in Arafat’s long and corrupt tenure. Palestinian society reflects the same blend of corruption, gender apartheid, religious intolerance and conspiratorialism that has left the region impoverished and shackled.
Americans have come to realize that the U.N. is not the esteemed forum of collective world wisdom they imagined it to be, but a corrupt place for the thugs of the world to unite in solidarity against the democratic few. More and more, Americans just don’t give a damn what happens at the UN. They see a crooked oil-for-food-scandal involving Kofi Annan’s own son. They see a UN obsessed with persecuting a tiny democracy beset on all sides by fascistic governments while millions perish without fanfare in Serbia, Rwanda and Iraq. The tyrant-infested UN will not change, and Israel will continue to be bullied. Why? Because there are fifty-seven Islamic-majority states, amounting to one-third of the UN’s total membership. Israel will always be outvoted. Thus, the UN will rule that Israel’s fence is illegal—a measure of self-defense forced after one-hundred and thirty suicide bombings in four years—and simultaneously deny the very existence an ongoing genocide in the Sudan whose toll approaches 70,000. (The perpetrators are Muslim Arabs, and so criticism of the Khartoum regime is squelched.) And this will all be business as usual.
Europe will criticize Israel too. To understand why, consider the large and growing domestic Muslim populations (as high as 10% of the population of France), fears of Arab terrorism, residual anti-Semitism, and kowtowing to Gulf oil producers. But I wonder if this can hold forever. After all, Israel is not really their problem. In the near future, the true threats to Europe will become clearer: tens of thousands of unassimilated, resentful immigrants from North Africa and the Greater Middle East, many drawn to the call of jihad, and a nuclearized mullocracy in Iran. Each European nation will react differently. Some will choose to join the U.S. in confronting terrorism; others will appease it. Europe has learned that if you cross Israel, Israelis shrug and feel disappointed. If you cross the Islamic world, you risk ten coordinated Semtex bombings in a Madrid train station at rush hour. Spain threw out its government for an appeasing socialist, and now learns that the same holy warriors are attempting to blow up its high court and soccer stadiums.
If it puffs Syrian or Egyptian pride vis-à-vis Israel to do at the UN what they could not do on the battlefield—win—then let them posture. It does not change the fact that Israelis are rich and powerful and free, and Syrians and Egyptians are poor and illiterate and weak. Does anyone doubt that grudge and envy do not fire their anger against Israel, a country of six million? Israel’s neighbors have fallen so far behind the rest of the world in the globalizing era that their literacy rates lag behind those of sub-Saharan Africa. Spain translates more books in a year than the entire Arab Middle East has in the last thousand years.
Meanwhile, Israel has transformed a resource-poor land the size of New Jersey into a proud and unapologetic democracy that wins wars. Self-investment, openness and unbound inquiry have catapulted Israel to world leader in medical, military and internet technology, developers of everything from the agricultural equipment used in the valleys of California and AOL Instant Messenger to our ballistic missile defense system. A commitment to economic liberty and the rule of law have grown Israel’s economy larger than those of South Africa and Argentina, whose populations number 42 million and 39 million, respectively. Critics whine that Israelis possess tanks while Palestinians wield only rocks. It does not seem to register with them that Israel has tanks because Israel invented tanks. (It’s called the Merkava, from the Biblical word for “chariot.”) Out of twelve Nobel prizes awarded this year, Israelis received two. These are the earned fruits of a free society.
The Holocaust destroyed forever the universe of European Jewry from which Einstein, Freud and Marx emerged—its culture, language, and two-thirds of its lives. But one of the most curious aspects of this narrative is that the survivors did not allow themselves to drown in a black ocean of loss and pity, or pledge eternal revenge against Germany. Instead, they set about to rebuild, painfully, but inspirited by a deep sense of faith and dignity. This moral character explains why Israel has never produced a suicide bomber, and why Palestine has never produced a deserving Nobel laureate. History is made not by unseen social forces but by men, and it matters dearly in the determination of a nation’s fate whether its Founding Fathers are men like David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann and Abba Eban and whether they are men like Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Yasir Arafat.
— Joey Tartakovsky is assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Books, published by The Claremont Institute. He graduated this year from UC Santa Barbara, where he was founding president of American Students for Israel. This essay reprinted from Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers