by Stephen Schecter
1st part of 2
October 2009. The Egyptian Minister of Health announces that Israeli doctors will not be welcome at a breast cancer awareness conference in
Same as the old one, it seems. And the Western world wants
Who in his or her right mind could actually believe that the Arabs want peace with
Meir Shalev, an Israeli author, once wrote a book called Esau. In it he described an imagined scene from the Arab riots of 1929 which had all the earmarks of veracity. An Arab shepherd comes from the mosque, the very same Al-Aqsa mosque from which the very same cry still resounds — 'death to the Jews' — and lops off one of the legendary breasts of his faithful customer, Miriam, and cripples her baby son in her courtyard. I have no doubt that what the character Ibrahim did in this story the many Ibrahims of today would do again if they could only invade Tel Aviv itself. But Meir Shalev has placed himself in the peace camp. Ein brera, we have no choice, he would argue, or the Jews will become as violent as their enemies, trying to hold on to land that does not belong to them. But the land does belong to them, has belonged to them ever since Abraham walked it and bought that cave in
The Palestinians, and the entire Arab Muslim world to their back, do not recognize that at all.
Let us not forget that the leader of the Palestinian cause, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was in league with Hitler, as was the head of the
The folly of such a policy ought to be apparent to a five-year-old. Indeed, it probably is apparent to a five-year-old, but not to grown adults, Jew and non-Jew, throughout the Western world, who not only cannot imagine what alternative there is, but continue to indulge the Arabs in their never-ending mendacity. And yet the solution is simple, as simple as it always has been when one is faced with an implacable and hateful enemy to whom compromise and peace are anathema. The Palestinians have to be defeated militarily, a goal perfectly within
But the Arab and Muslim world will scream, people will say. Yes, they will scream, and then they will calm down. Hizbullah will shake in its boots and silence their guns. Iran will understand that if they threaten Israel their fate will be worse than that of the Palestinians, without Israel's having to bomb any nuclear facility. Even
The world will never let us get away with it, the Jews will say, once again placing themselves in the sandals of their ancestors who went to scout out the
I am my brother's keeper, the Jews proudly pound their chests, and ask where the Palestinians would go if
ONE CAN, OF COURSE, EXPLAIN THIS AS THE BLIND SPOT OF DEMOCRACY. For not only do the Swedes indulge the Palestinians, not only do Barack Hussein Obama and his Jewish advisers, but so do the Israelis right across the political spectrum. Even Netanyahu promotes the lie that a Palestinian state is feasible and desirable, while Yossi Beilin, the architect of the
Yes, this is how democracy works. Unlike traditional society, modern society is not organized according to the difference of status. People are not legitimate only if they are born into the aristocracy and filled with blue blood. Everyone is held to be equal, even if in fact we are all different. But this difference is no longer used as the self-evident truth according to which society runs. No, it is exactly the opposite. We hold these truths to be self-evident, the American Declaration of Independence asserts, and so in modern society government is not the property of those who count as opposed to those who do not, but rule of the people, by the people, for the people. This too is not quite fact, but it does serve the function of providing a formula that justifies the way modernity works in the political sphere, keeping the government on its toes because the people can always throw the incumbents of office out by voting for the opposition. The media help them to clarify their choices by framing political questions, always complex, into binary choices: yes or no, for or against, moderate or extremist. This too is functional for democracies, because even for complex questions a decision has to be made, and a decision is always yes or no.
In the end, in the long run, overall, as historians would say, we tend to say yes in modern society: yes to peace, yes to progress, yes to reform and yes to compromise. In the end, in the long run, overall, we say yes to women's rights, yes to abortion, yes to gay marriage, yes to health insurance, yes to global border crossings of goods and people, even if so much yes also brings its share of grief. And we do so because we believe that people everywhere are, deep down, the same, want the same things, dream the same dreams, peace and love as the Beatles sang it. This too is mental sleight of hand, to which the rising divorce rates testify, but we continue to believe this nonetheless because it too is functional for democracy. The belief is part of the structure of expectations democracy generates, even if we do not see it that way. Indeed, we tend to think such expectations are simply a fact of human nature. Deep down people are basically good, and if they are not, then that is because other people, bad people — people with illegitimate wealth, power or privilege, we think — are doing something to distort their basic goodness. No one can seriously believe that Palestinians actually want to be martyrs, actually hate Israelis and want to destroy them. After all, they are people too, are they not, victims of disappointment? Surely, there is something that can be done to wean them from their violence, give them a stake in hope, prosperity and democracy. Surely they too, deep down, want to compromise. Surely, in short, they are like us, virtual if not actual citizens of democracy.
Only we do not say it quite like that. We do not add the kicker that indicates they would be like that if they lived under a democracy, because we do not demand that they democratize. No, we stop short of that because we frame our expectations as universal expectations about people, regardless of the society in which they live. We presume they are people like us because democracies, unlike traditional societies, do not exclude whole swaths of people from membership in society. Paradoxically, as a result, society hides from its members, and differences are now seen as differences between people, not between societies. Thus we cannot imagine there are societies in which child sacrifice, beheading, stoning, honor killings are part of the normal conduct of business, part of the structure of expectations which helps organize those societies and conditions the behavior of their members. During a feud in the Jordanian parliament one member bit off the ear of another; a third member shrugged it off as an incident that happens in parliaments around the world. And we shrug off his shrug, just as we shrug off the horrible slanders that circulate in the Palestinian press.
And so we do not hold the Palestinians to account. In spite of all the road maps demanding an end to incitement of violence against Jews, we do not insist they put that into effect before beginning negotiations. In spite of what history has shown, that democracies do not go to war against each other, we do not insist that they have a functioning democracy before they have a state. No, instead we keep deluding them and us that they can have it all: Jew hatred, terror, violence and blood lust on the one hand, and negotiations, peace and a state of their own on
Of course we would not, we say, but we do not see that the reason why we would not is because we live in a democracy. Only democracies, and the modern society of which they are the political formulation, have taught us to bridle our human passions. We are taught that not only in sermons and schools. We learn that every day: in the market place, in political parties, in courts, in the movies, to the point that we expect people to be decent, to compromise over the most deeply held convictions, to refrain from murder even when every fiber of our being calls out for it. It used to be that it was legally okay to kill your spouse and/or your spouse's lover if you found him or her, but especially her, in bed with someone else. Today crimes of passion are outlawed, and if you kill your spouse and/or your spouse's lover you go to jail. You may still want to, most probably do want to, for human nature has not changed, not since Cain and Abel or Joseph and his brothers, but the legal system has, because society has. Which just goes to show that society is not made up of people. It is composed of structures of expectation, backed by ways of organizing difference. And that is the one thing democracies do not see. And because they do not see that, cannot see that, democracies keep getting taken to the cleaners by societies that are organized on different and hostile principles.
So the Nobel Prize for literature laureate, José Saramago, who wrote a book called Blindness in which he explores the moral consequences of being cognitively blind, does not himself understand what he wrote, having had the stupidity to compare the Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to Auschwitz. So too all those who call Islam a religion of peace when it is anything but that and worry about discrimination against adherents to a religion which openly calls for war against anyone who resists the faith. The Palestinians stage-manage the death of the lad who became the poster boy of the second Intifada, but the media of the Western world that were quick to pick up and disseminate this blood libel never recanted their error and never made a big deal about telling the world about it. For they too do not understand that lying is a way of life in the Arab and Muslim world. Even George W, Bush, whose gut instinct was more right than all the analysis of the intellectuals who derided him, could not bring himself to label the enemy as Islam. To him too all religions are peaceful, since under conditions of democracy they are. But Islam does not operate under conditions of democracy and makes no bones about its open hostility to democracy and the modern world it harbingers. To
The irony is that Western civilization, the only part of the globe that is truly modern, no longer sees itself as a civilization. All the other ones Huntington identified in his book of that title were and still are defined by religion — Buddhist, Confucian, Islamic, Russian and Greek Orthodox, Spanish Catholic, even Animist. Not the West, which used to see itself as Judeo-Christian, but no longer does. Instead it is proudly secular and proudly multicultural, which means it is paradoxically unable to measure the threat against it. It is critical of its own tradition, but tolerant of all others and especially of others that would do it in. The Western reaction to the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammad is an eloquent case in point. Indeed, modern society is the only swath of societies in today's world that does not see itself as a civilization and the only one that appreciates the global reach of modern history. With its face resolutely turned toward the future, it engenders a mental framework that understands everything in terms of the world to come. Islam is peaceful because when the Islamic world finally goes democratic, Islam too will become peaceful. And when