Lee Smith has a brilliant analysis of the way western intellectuals are drawn to terrorists like a moth to a devouring flame, a subject I recently addressed in somewhat more prosaic terms.
Why Israel’s enemies will always be the darlings of Western intellectuals
By Lee Smith | Jul 14, 2010 7:00 AM | Print | Email / Share
It’s nothing new for Western intellectuals to lavish attention and admiration on the resistance forces aligned against Israel, whether it’s Hamas or Hezbollah or even organizations like al-Qaida that are less interested in Israel than in killing and maiming Western civilians. Last week, when CNN’s former Middle East editor, Octavia Nasr, tweeted that she respected the late militant cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the cards were out on the table for all to see. But usually the pro-resistance vibe is more subtle, as when Nasr’s defenders demanded a more nuanced understanding from knee-jerk Americans who were shocked by Nasr’s support for a suicide-bomb-sanctioning man of faith. After all, Fadlallah was a relatively pro-feminist radical Islamist cleric—and if his talk about Israel was genocidal, well, that’s just part of the package when dealing with a complex place like the Middle East.
Media consumers in the United States are by now well aware that Hezbollah and Hamas provide “social services” for their communities. For the writers and television personalities who push such supposed palliatives on their audiences—“Yes, they do chant ‘kill the Jews!’ and they do act on their rhetoric, but they also educate poor kids in clean, well-lit schools (please ignore the slogans painted on the walls)”—respect for the resistance is a polite way of indicating one’s tolerance for murderous anti-Semitism. The issue is whether this attitude is in danger of seeping into the mainstream of the U.S. public. Poll numbers show that U.S. support for Israel is consistently high—in February Gallup found that a near-record 63 percent of Americans were more sympathetic to the Jewish state than to the Palestinians. But ideas can change, and it’s intellectuals who often lead the way. Remember that Israel was a popular cause among the intellectual classes until the 1967 war. It is true that the American people and the bulk of their intellectual class are far apart on the subject of Israel, but all the massive and popular evil of the last century started among a small ideological elite.
A common explanation for the turning away of the intellectuals from Israel is that the Jewish state forfeited the world’s sympathy once it was no longer perceived as the underdog in its conflict with the Arabs. Israel’s sin, in this reading, is that it didn’t lose. However, this would suggest that intellectuals misunderstand a uniquely American concept: The underdog does not win the pity of the chorus because he is crushed by his tormentors; rather, he is the champion who perseveres because the stubborn stars that rule his nature will not permit him to choose otherwise. Perhaps his friends will abandon him, and maybe his family, too; neither his wife nor children signed on for such an arduous journey. If he intends to follow this hard path, he may well travel alone. Such is the stuff of big-ticket American heroism. It is odd that the American intelligentsia cannot recognize in Israel the likeness of our literary models, Melville’s Ahab, Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne. Rather, the intelligentsia is more like Hester’s hypocritical neighbors. If Israel is portrayed as the Dirty Harry of nations, then its accusers are the tepid bureaucrats mistaking cowardice for compassion, who chide Clint Eastwood’s Callahan.
Some journalists shed tears when Arafat died, others are smitten by the beauty of Islamist militants: The “green eyes” of Hezbollah’s deputy Naim Qassem “are framed by thick, dark lashes and he has long elegant hands.” Saddam Hussein, we are told, did much to advance the rights of women. In Cairo I knew a former CNN producer whose first affair with an Arab intelligence officer was in Saddam’s Baghdad—a great city, she explained, if you didn’t mind the constant surveillance and widespread torture.
But this attraction of the intellectuals to the flame of the resistance is not simply based on eros alone. There is also the aspect of thanatos, the death instinct. The sad reality is that all organisms—men and the nations they populate—carry within them the seeds of their own end. While the normal run of men unwittingly nurture their demise through the wrong that has become habit and custom, the suicide overruns all limits. In reality, it is not Israel that our intellectuals despise, for that hatred is simply the latest pattern in a long century that the West’s self-loathing has taken. It is ourselves that we cannot abide.
One could not ask for a better description of what the dangers we run with a MSNM that, in its complicity with Pallywood, has become an Augean Stables of “wrong that has become habit and custom.”