With all the Jewish People have been through, you would expect now an unshakable moral commitment toward the Jewish state. Instead, Israel is held to a double standard by the world.
Israel’s geo-strategic and national-demographic profile is abysmal: a tiny Jewish country with a large hostile Arab antagonistic population, threatened by Middle East neighbors contiguous, proximate, and from afar, facing a belligerent Islamic religious civilization whose commitment to jihad and conquest denies legitimacy to a Jewish state in “Palestine”. Permanent war has been Israel’s daily reality from the first day of its restoration in 1948.
Israel ranks 147th in size among the 193 countries of the world. Without the post-1967 territories, Israel is the size of New Jersey. It is thirty-one times smaller than Texas or France, and six times smaller than Pennsylvania. The size of Israel is 373 times smaller than Australia. Israel is in its pre-1967 scope of 20,000 square kilometers is only half the size of Denmark and the Netherlands.
That Israel lacks strategic depth is a gross understatement. The most central geographic datum for Israel is her sliver-width coastal waist from Haifa in the north to Ashkelon in the south. At its most narrow point were 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the coastal city of Netanya to the then Jordanian West Bank at Tulkarem. The existential scenario forecast Arab artillery batteries shelling Israeli cities, or an armored corps careening down the western Samarian mountain range and driving to the sea shore – cutting Israel into two, north and south of Tel Aviv.
Ever since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, now sporting all of a 75-kilometer width, the international community has been censuring her for refusing to withdraw from the entire West Bank and blocking the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Israel’s seemingly most congenial border is the Mediterranean Sea coast to the west, though it’s also an arena with multiple security threats.
More than half of the country is desert. The foreboding coordinates of Israel’s national space include further sources for apprehension. She has but one and very narrow river, one lake (discounting salty the Dead Sea), and one major international airport. With an over eight-million population (without the territories), of which Jews number six and a half million, Israel offers a searing example for human and traffic congestion. Road density in Israel is the highest among the OECD countries.
No country in the world has stood in Israel’s place: a minuscule, isolated, and geo-strategically vulnerable country; facing many wars (1948, 1956, 1967, 1969-70, 1973, 1982, 1991, and 2006) and incessant warfare assaulting the country’s civilian population; delegitimized by foes and abandoned by friends; all this despite a pattern of various territorial concessions and partial/total withdrawals: from Sinai (1949, 1957, 1974-75, 1982); the Gaza Strip (1957, 1994, 2006); the Golan Heights (1974); the West Bank (1994, 1995, 1997-8); and south Lebanon (2000). Europeans and others, arrogant stooges of the Arab world, have no right to offer even the slightest advice, let alone stringent orders, as to how Israel should act in its specific situation.
These data have inexplicably not convinced the world after 50 years of Israeli conquest and retention of Judea and Samaria that this post-1967 geographic configuration must most legitimately serve as permanent borders for Israel. With Europe in the lead, accompanied by great powers like Russia and China, a broad international political consensus emerged that demanded Israeli withdrawal from all the territories, including East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the Six-Day War. America was part of this coalition, and the mantra of “territories for peace” was the decisive formula for conflict-resolution. As the Arabs consider Israel an alien entity in their midst, could they be expected to grant Israel the peace she so desired?
The formula of territories-for-peace was vacuous and deceptive; but the world sanctified it as the only path to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The so-called “territories for peace” implementation between Israel and Egypt in 1979 was far from inaugurating a warm conventional peace; rather a formal agreement led to some security accommodations while at the popular level Egypt remained a defiant foe of the Jewish state. The same applies for the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994.
Conquest, Near and Far
Different political standards have been a glaring feature in a variety of post-war settings. Poland, in the post-Second World War European theater, acquired East Prussia with American and Soviet consent after Nazi Germany had invaded and conquered the country, massacring millions of Poles. Aggression carried a price, and justly so. Poland then carried out ethnic cleansing by expelling three million Germans in order to assure her national integrity and security. This radical step did not evoke condemnation or soul-searching. When Israel preempted an imminent mortal threat to her existence in June 1967, her conquests were however considered inadmissible and her rule illegal. Arab provocation and aggression were to be exempt of any penalty and punishment. Israel’s act of self-defense was to be nullified as a violation of international law.
Conquest was a major feature of European imperialism and colonialism over many centuries. Israel, however, is to be denied and denounced by the international community and its institutions for its presence in the core area of its biblical homeland; and Judea and Samaria are literally just a stone’s throw from the pre-’67 lines, not thousands of miles from Jerusalem. Some perspective and proportion should, late as it is, be introduced into the political discourse regarding Israel and its territorial rights and policies.
The Palestinians are not struggling for independence and statehood, but for the annihilation of Zionism. In contrast to authentic liberation struggles, the Palestinian war against Israel seeks to destroy the Jewish state and massacre and/or expel all its Jews.
Cases of present-day conquest have not aroused particular international interest, intervention, or revulsion. Chinese rule in Tibet, Indian rule in Kashmir, and Russian rule in the Caucasus and the Crimea, are examples of great power intrusion over native populations. The motive for such conquests and their justification is not due to immediate security imperatives. Beijing, Delhi, and Moscow are comfortably located and adequately secured without any relation to ruling other peoples and territories. Broader interests are involved which do not necessarily require military domination.
Israel shares borders with four Arab states, all of whom – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon – along with more distant Iraq, initiated war against Israel in 1948. There were years when the Lebanese border was tranquil, even friendly. Yet the Palestinians in earlier years, and Hezbollah Shiites since the 1980s, targeted Israel with cross-border terrorism and demonized her as an enemy-state to be fought and destroyed. Israel fought her Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The Gaza Strip was quiet for many years, then conquered and administered by Israel until 1994. Ever since it is a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and warfare against Israel.
The Golan Heights were brought to pacification when in 1967 Israel conquered the mountain plateau, which remained quiet until recent years, when the Syrian army, Hezbollah guerrillas, Iranian revolutionary guards, and Islamic warriors, turned the border into an explosive zone of violent skirmishes with Israel.
Overall there were years of relative quiet within the Land west of the Jordan River. But now Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank (with two recorded uprisings or intifadas), Bedouin lawbreakers in the Negev, and Arab extremists in the Galilee, have undermined Israel’s domestic security and violently menaced Jewish safety in the country. Israel’s Arab citizens arrogantly stoke the flames of hatred by raising the Palestinian flag – in Israel – during mass demonstrations against the state.
Thus Jews, in 2018, have been targeted by live gunfire and knife-stabbers in Jerusalem and Samaria, rocket attacks from Gaza, and missile launchings from Syria.
The “Palestinian” Case
Integral states necessarily oppose secessionist movements or ethnic-religious currents which potentially threaten to tear apart the national borders. Examples of Quebec in Canada, Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, Kabylia in Algeria, and Kurdistan in Iraq and Turkey, illustrate ethnic-historic fissures which challenge the solidity of countries to withstand domestic implosion. South Tyrol in northern Italy presents the case of a German-speaking minority area contiguous to German-speaking Austria that enjoys autonomy, but not independence.
“Palestinian” secessionist demands in the name of self-determination and national liberation are nothing less than an irredentist scheme to dissolve the Jewish state piece-by-piece. First Judea and Samaria (the Gaza Strip is already a self-contained “Palestinian” entity); then East Jerusalem; then the Galilee; and finally the total collapse of Israel as a governable and defendable state.
Israel’s morale will wither as the state contracts step-by-step. The PLO “stages theory” as adopted in 1974 was given its first practical launching when the 1993 Oslo Accord called for Israeli territorial withdrawal, first from Gaza and Jericho, then from swathes of the West Bank and its major Palestinian cities. The appetite grows with the eating as in feeding the fox one lamb after another.
The Unholy Alliance
Both Israel and Europe are experiencing in different modalities what can historically be termed “a barbarian invasion.” Peoples from outside the civilizational zone, derisive of the given status quo order, armed with boundless energy and commitment to destroy everything in their path, seek victory at any price and toward whatever goal.
The Muslim fundamentalist forces in our era believe in Quran-mandated war against any and all non-Muslim infidel (fakir) religions, cultures, societies, and states. Israel is on the battle lines of this monumental confrontation in the Middle East; Europe is at the heart of this civilizational struggle; Russia is facing its own threat from within. The major advocates and practitioners on behalf of Islam’s global jihad include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda. Europe and Israel are in an objective sense on the same side of the civilizational equation. Islamic terrorism in London and Paris, Madrid and Brussels, Berlin and Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Toulouse, and Stockholm, should have been helpful in clarifying this political equivalence.
In Israel, Islamic terrorism struck in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Afula, Ma’alot and Kiryat Shmona, Nahariya and Petach-Tikvah. Living in the shadow of terrorism has always been a way of life for Israelis.
After centuries of expulsions, inquisitions, and pogroms – with the horrid climax in the inexplicable Holocaust – Europe is not coming clean in its attitude toward Israel. In the July 1938 Evian Conference, the European democracies refused to agree accepting German and Austrian Jews as immigrants or refugees whose lives were already pitilessly endangered by the Nazi beast.
You would perhaps expect now an unshakable moral commitment toward the Jewish state. Yet the Germans and their collaborators, who didn’t finish the diabolical job of decimating all Jews in Europe and elsewhere, decided in their cold strategic calculus from the 1970s to side with the Arabs and against the Israelis. Maybe the Muslims will complete the unfinished business with a contribution from their European collaborators.
The European dhimmis have, broadly speaking, a consistent and long legacy of policies harmful to Israel: military boycotts, political denunciations, and diplomatic censures; also individual recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s and then collectively in the Venice Declaration of 1980; assistance for Egypt’s missile program and Iraq’s nuclear program. Along with many other countries, Europe has decisively voted for anti-Israel resolutions in the UN General Assembly – calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and favoring a Palestinian state; and condemning in UN Security Council resolution 2334 from December 23, 2017, Israel’s settlement activity as a “flagrant violation” of international law, while opposing any changes to the pre-1967 lines to which Israel must withdraw. Fourteen members voted in favor of 2334 – including Britain and France, while the United States under President Obama abstained. Recently they even boycotted the USA’s historical embassy move to Jerusalem.
The political litmus test vis-à-vis Israel has exposed the moral bankruptcy of Europe, certainly its western and central countries in particular.
Since President Trump’s election, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has stood with Israel in an exceptional display of support for the Jewish state. Rejecting the sophistry of moral equivalence, Haley defends with resolve Israel’s right to Jerusalem, her military posture toward Iranian threats emanating from Syria, and her resolute response to Hamas warfare from Gaza. Israel has at last found a true friend as the world continues to gang up on the tiny Jewish state.
A Call for Silence
Israel’s situation is manifestly unique in that one country – Iran – explicitly threatens Israel with annihilation, and builds the resources to achieve this; many other countries of Muslim and Arab identity favor the same goal which is articulated in only slightly less explicit language; and transnational Islamic movements likewise actively promote the same purpose. The Jewish people have yet to escape from their inexorable plight in history.
Let us conclude this essay with Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, who addressed the UN Security Council the day after the June 1967 erupted. The Egyptians had earlier moved their army to Israel’s Negev border, formed military alliances with Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, blocked Israel’s southern port of Eilat, and declared in the most explicit fashion that its objective was to destroy Israel. Eban confronted the Council members with these words:
“Imagine a foreign power forcibly closing New York or Montreal, Boston or Marseille, Toulon or Copenhagen, Rio or Tokyo or Bombay harbor. How would your governments react, what would you do?” Eban’s rhetorical question was met with silence.
Indeed, a world response of silence and shame to Israel’s real-life existential situation today would rank as a minimally most moral and appropriate of responses.
Dr. Mordechai Nisan, retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written extensively on Israel and the region, including on Lebanon and Mideast