Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Islamophilia and the Israeli Question
The dominant theme of the Islamophile foreign policy narrative is that America’s troubles with Islamic terrorism and the violent instability of the Middle-East somehow derive from our excessive closeness to the Jewish State. In this narrative, which is prevalent among diplomats, journalists and assorted talking heads who are neither but pretend to be both, the terrorists are really just critics of our foreign policy. Except instead of penning smarmy New York Times columns like Thomas Friedman or Nick Kristoff, they plant bombs and ram planes into buildings not for the greater glory of Allah, but to prove the theses of Adlai Stevenson III and Zbignew Brzezinski.
The trouble with this is that it fails to reflect any reality other than the one in the stifling craniums of the opinionators. The foreign policy dolts have been complaining about the Zionist menace long before there was a special relationship between the United States and Israel. Back then the British Foreign Office thought that the Empire could govern the region through a passel of puppet kings and princes. They carved up Israel, turning most of the land over to an expat bunch of Saudi royals, trained the Hashemite Kingdom’s Legion into the second best military in the region and commanded them in the assault on Jerusalem against a handful of Israeli farm boys and Ghetto fighters fresh off the boat.
What did the Empire get in return for all its Islamophilia? Less than ten years later it was forced to turn to those same farm boys and their sons after the Woolrich educated King Farouk I went into exile in Rome and General Nasser began to be unfavorably compared to Hitler by leading British politicians for his designs on the Suez Canal.
Fairly soon the monarchies were all gone, except for those under direct American protection, and those kings and princes have been some of the leading financiers of Islamic terrorism making them a very bad bargain.
In the Islamophile version of history, the Israeli Lobby “bought up” congress and terrorizes any politician who doesn’t salute the Blue and White. In the actual history the relationship emerged because the reflex Anti-Western sentiments of the Muslim world left Western powers with few options.
The so-called “Special Relationship” did not develop until growing Soviet influence among the receptive Arab Muslim nations of the Middle-East created the need for a counterbalance. Israel has been that balance, the uncomfortable option held in reserve for when the Muslim allies of the United States, Britain and France inevitably turn on them. And to assert otherwise is to put the cart before the horse and the present before the past.
Had that relationship been the work of a nefarious Jewish lobby then it is rather odd that it has deepened even as the numbers and influence of American Jews have declined along with their commitment to the Jewish State. Somewhere between a third and a quarter of American Jews, among them some of the wealthiest, famous and best educated of the bunch, consider Israel an embarrassment and wish it would go away. They pour small fortunes into liberal lobbies that urge politicians to oppose Israel.
But what does this relationship consist of exactly? American troops don’t fight for Israel the way that they have for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Lebanese governments. The military aid exists for much the same reason that unnecessary bases and Pentagon cost overruns do as part of the complicated relationship between defense contractors and local congressmen looking to subsidize industries in their districts.
The far more important part of the relationship, that of moral support hardly exists. Most Americans do support Israel in its conflict with Islamic expansionism, which is more than can be said for American leaders. Israel has hardly ever been in a war without receiving stern warnings from Washington to immediately seek a truce, regardless of who began the war or what’s at stake.
Critics of Israel harp on America’s failure to act as an “honest broker” in that country’s negotiations with Islamic terrorists, by which they mean that we haven’t pushed Israel all the way under the bus. But how much more room is there under the bus? Arafat’s Palestinian Authority has never been held to a single one of its commitments, while Israel has been held to countless commitments it never even made. To gauge how far the negotiations have drifted and in whose direction, a process that began with Israel not negotiating directly with terrorists and signing on only to an autonomous territory within its borders, has now reached the point where the Vice President of the United States throws a fit because a housing permit was granted for houses in Jerusalem while he was in Israeli airspace.
It goes without saying that no Muslim ally of the United States is treated in such a shoddy way. Turkey, which genuinely and indisputably occupies Cyprus, could build mosques out of piles of Cypriot corpses and Biden would only smile and remark on the fascinating Eastern architecture. When Turkey’s Thug in Chief threatened to ethnically cleanse the Armenians a second time if they didn’t stop complaining about the first time at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Britain, the good fellow pretended to find something very interesting on the ceiling at that moment.
The Saudis can slowly behead a woman accused of witchcraft and win a long round of applause from diplomats, but when Israel grants a house permit in its own capital, one of the oldest cities in the world which fashionable Islamophiles now call a settlement, then all hell breaks loose.
Is this really anyone’s idea of a special relationship?
The truth of the matter is that this is a relationship built primarily on Muslim intransigence. Rather than Israel trapping the United States into a relationship that alienates the Muslim world, it is the Muslim world’s alienation from the West that made the relationship both possible and necessary.
Israel has not poisoned the West’s relationship with the Muslim world. It is the native and reflexive hostility of the Muslim world which did that. The Islamophile apologists for a failed foreign policy would rather jauntily don their keffiyahs and meet for coffee in Cairo with the next up and coming revolutionary, while blaming America’s relationship with Israel for the regional violence and hostility, rather than admit that a century of playing Lawrence of Arabia has only left behind two types of Muslim countries. Open enemies and covert enemies.
The problem is a structural one. Muslim Westaphobia is a hatred that predates the United States or the current foreign policy arrangements of its leaders. It is a civilizational conflict that cannot be settled with a convenient scapegoat or addressed solely in terms of the foreign policy of the last century, which is hardly more than a minute in a struggle defined by over a thousand years of acrimony.
Israel makes for a convenient scapegoat. A colonial scapegoat to tick the checkboxes of the left, never mind that its people are the indigenous inhabitants and the Muslim terrorists are the settlers and conquerors who have more in common with Francisco Pizarro than they do with Chief Joseph. But the attacks on Israel as the source of the sore spot are expedient rather than meaningful. It isn’t about Israel or Mubarak or reports that somewhere an American soldier in a latrine flushed a Koran or any of the other spurious scapegoats of Muslim violence.
The structural animosity between Islam and the West must be addressed and it cannot be addressed so long as the Nazi ambassador is allowed to answer every question about his country’s actions by pontificating about the Sudetenland north of Jerusalem. The relationship between Israel and the West is not the cause of the conflict between Islam and the West, it is the unacknowledged Western response to it.