I’ve been having a very interesting conversation, on an old post, with a commenter who says he wishes Israel well and he himself is a Zionist but he fears that Israel’s actions are losing it international support and this will become an existential threat. (Click on the above link and continue on down). I told the commenter that I had already addressed this issue in the post about Leon Panetta warning Israel of its isolation and in the later post from last week about the New York Times wanting to save Israel from itself.
And then yesterday I found Prof. Barry Rubin’s excellent article dealing with the exact same question, and of course he expresses himself so much better than me.
In the late 1960s, more than 40 years ago, the Palestinian and Arab leaders were certain that Israel would not survive. The fact that they were completely wrong has not prevented a whole new rash of contemporary speculations.
The PLO view, shared by virtually all Arabs at the time, was very clearly defined. The two main points boil down to the following. First, Israel would not survive because there was no real basis for such a state and people. Second, the Arabs would destroy it using various strategies.
Here is the ultimate quote from Yasir Arafat in1968—that’s 43 years ago–on why this would work:
Terrorism would “create and maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel….The Israelis have one great fear, the fear of casualties….”
The PLO’s attacks would “prevent immigration and encourage emigration….to destroy tourism, to prevent immigrants becoming attached to the land, to weaken the Israeli economy and to divert the greater part of it to security requirements.” This would “inevitably” prevent Israel’s consolidation and bring its disintegration. The final step would be “a quick blow by the regular armies at the right moment” to finish Israel off.
All of these things failed. More immigrants came than expected and were successfully integrated. People weren’t frightened into fleeing. Casualties were absorbed and limited. The country became economically successful and militarily victorious. Thus, today Israel is stronger—far stronger—than ever.
And who were the biggest losers in this conflict? … the biggest losers have been the Arabs who wasted resources, lost more lives, faced repeated humiliations, and ended up with dictatorship and stagnant societies.
Yet now there is a revival of the claim—sometimes among ill-informed well-wishers, more often among antagonistic haters—that Israel might not survive. This is based partly on wishful thinking, partly on ignorance. Underlying these factors, however, is a basic disbelief that Jews are a people and can be a state.
And that reflects a lack of knowledge—often among Western Jews themselves—about Jewish history as well as a naïve acceptance of anti-Israel propaganda, claims that have proven to be false for decades.
Actually, then, the shoe is on the other foot entirely from what is being claimed. It is not Israel’s existence that is threatened but that of its adversaries and in some ways of Western Europe, too.
…Periodically, some radical Muslim writes that if only each Muslim would kill one Jew then Israel would vanish. High hopes are held for nuclear weapons that Iran still doesn’t have. But such schemes never get off the ground. Indeed, it is Arab nationalism that is endangered with extinction under a wave of revolutionary Islamism. By leaving the path of pragmatism for that of doctrinaire Islamism, Turkey is likely to lose the success it enjoyed for so many decades.
There is not one regime in a Muslim-majority country that should feel confident about its future; not one such state whose continued existence can be taken for granted.
In contrast, there are only two ways Israel might perhaps disappear. First, it might happen if Arabs and Muslims dropped radicalism, ideology, and bickering to concentrate on technological and economic progress for 50 years, only then turning on Israel.
And here is the kicker, and the point that I have been stressing through all my posts and comments:
The other way Israel might be wiped off the map is if its leaders heeded the advice they are getting from the West. That’s the irony of the situation. Those stubborn, stiff-necked people are not going to doom themselves by implementing the mistaken ideas told to them by Western media, experts, intellectuals, and governments who claim such policies are the road to safety.
Part of the problem here is that all too many Western intellectuals no longer believe in fighting—or even sacrificing–for your country; patriotic pride or nationalism or religion; or even the nation-state itself. Consequently, while many Arabs and Muslims don’t believe Israel can exist because of contempt for Jews and belief in the superiority of their nations and religion, many Westerners now believe in the wickedness of their countries and religion and the unviability of the national model.
In thinking about Israel, both these opposite arguments amount to the same thing. Yet they tell more about those having these ideas than about Israel.
Who’s really facing the abyss? That doesn’t mean destruction will come to Europe’s existing states and societies but it does mean they are more likely to go than Israel is.
…Yet all of this also shows why Israel is the key to understanding today’s world. Israel’s survival shows that democratic societies can fight and defeat dictators and totalitarian ideologies, Western religions do have a continuing place in Western societies and nation-states are still a viable—perhaps the most viable—way to organize many political structures.
That’s precisely why so many are working so hard to demonize and discredit Israel. If people in the West understand what Israel is and what it is doing, they will comprehend the value of those approaches and values. And if they understand how Israel is lied about and mistreated they will comprehend much wider problems with the people, ideas, and institutions governing their own lives today.
I’ve used a very free hand with the excerpts here but please go and read the whole thing.
Prof. Rubin continues with these theme in a similar article on Pajamas Media: How do we know that Israel’s critics are wrong? Because of what they say.
In other words, if you want to challenge Israel’s stance how should you do it?
The answer is by taking the exact opposite position. Here it is:
1. Acknowledgment of experience:
Israel and Israelis have good reasons for being mistrustful based on what they have lived through during recent decades.
2. Acknowledgement of responsibility:
We know that the West has let Israel down by naiveté toward its enemies, failure to provide sufficient support, excess and unfair criticism.
3. Awareness of Israel’s legitimate needs
We understand that Israel needs secure borders, strong security guarantees, limits on Palestine’s armaments, an iron-clad commitment that a peace agreement ends the conflict, and resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Palestine.
4. Understanding of the dangers of a Palestine state and what’s needed to produce a stable, lasting peace
We know that a Palestinian state could continue cross-border attacks, incitement to murder Israelis, and a military build-up that would threaten Israel, viewing the new situation as not one of peace but of a second stage in the battle. We must take steps to stop this from destroying a peace agreement.
5. The regional scene
We understand that we failed to live up to our commitment to Israel in the 2006 Lebanon ceasefire agreement—letting Hizballah return to the south—and that the current regional scene is very dangerous. Consequently, we understand that absolute clarity is needed on revolutionary Islamism’s threat, combatting Iranian influence, helping moderate democratic movements but doing all possible against radical ones (even if camouflaged as moderate), comprehending Turkey’s transformation by an Islamist regime and opposing it. We will work with Israel and other moderate forces against the revolutionaries and those who want to wipe it off the map.
Read this article too. You’ll be glad you did.