At the Balfour Declaration centenary conference convened by JCPA Tuesday, February 28, there was a particularly interesting juxtaposition during the first panel between remarks by Colonel Richard Kemp and Professor Julius Schoeps.
(NB: the videos of the talks will only be up next week. I will link when possible and make any amendments to this post that a second hearing might impose. Thanks to Richard Kemp for sending me a copy of his remarks; for his further thoughts see “Balfour Declaration, November 2016)
In his talk, “Israel as a Strategic Asset to Britain”, Richard Kemp drew a striking contrast between two European attitudes towards Israel. On the one hand, there are those who see her as a remarkably successful loyal ally, crucial not only to Montgomery in 1940s, but even more today in the 21st century. On the other, there are those who repeatedly sacrifice Israel’s interests and side against her. His illustrative example concerns Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paolo, the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, who:
In 2009… visited Israel to study IDF tactics to apply to NATO operations in Afghanistan. He was particularly interested in Israeli tactics for fighting terror in civilian-populated areas. This visit came just weeks after the publication of the infamous Goldstone Report – which alleged that Israel had committed war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza.
The contrast was striking: within weeks of the European Parliament endorsing the report, the European Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee was visiting Israel, for the third time in four years, to study ethical methods for dealing with terrorist insurgencies without causing undue harm to civilians.
Apparently the Europeans find scolding Israel nearly irresistible, even though they know their criticism is not only untrue… but, it’s the opposite. Israel behaves better than even other Western armies; a fortiori than the jihadis they fight, whose cannibalistic strategies create civilian casualties among their own people.
Let’s call it (European) schizoid dissonance: holding two diametrically and significantly contradictory notions in one’s empirical and moral discourse at the same time. On the one hand, the (European) cultural elite – journalists, critics, public intellectuals, researchers, NGOs –conduct a conversation in which despising Israel holds an important place, in which they have flipped the symbol and insist on seeing an Israeli Goliath bullying a hapless Palestinian David. On the other hand, the military, the security people, the grown ups in charge, ask the Israelis to teach them how to limit casualties when the enemy uses civilians as shields and how to enhance their security. And that schizoid dissonance seems to hold more or less for all European countries.
No sooner had Kemp finished his remarks than the next speaker, Prof. Julius H. Schoeps, the Director of the Moses Mendelssohn Centre of European Jewish Studies at Potsdam University, made remarks that seemed to illustrate the contradictions Kemp had just highlighted. After asserting German support for Israel and good will towards the Zionist dream, he concluded by sternly warning Israel against impeding the peace process with their settlements.
Nor is Schoeps merely shooting from the lip. He has written extensively on the threat to peace represented by the Jewish settlements. In “Is There Still a Future for Settlements in Zionist Ideology?“, and extensive and historically embedded account, he identifies the settlements as a, if not the major problem :
There is no question today that each new Jewish settlement in the West Bank or the area around Jerusalem adds more “fuel to the fire” in the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict and aggravates the already difficult peace efforts. This raises the question whether the settlement ideology might not have to be regarded as a kind of flaw in the inception of Zionism. We ask ourselves if the settlement ideology is not perhaps the real obstacle preventing a peaceful co-existence among the people in the region?
And, no surprise, he answers these rhetorical questions, “yes,” specifically because the settlements [sic] are “religious” in inspiration. As for the religious orientation of the Palestinians, he makes brief allusions to their need for a “change in paradigm… a change in consciousness for the future.” Not a word about the religious beliefs they hold that pose problems for peace: no Jihad, no Dar al Islam, no Islamism, no nurtured genocidal religious hatreds. Palestinian problems are only a cloud on the horizon: “[W]hether the creation of the a sovereign Palestinian state will lead to the establishment of peace in the region remains a matter of speculation.” In other words: abundant criticism of Israelis (for their religious beliefs no less), vague allusions to problems among the Palestinians… to be dealt with after the urgent business of stopping the settlements.
The connection of Schoeps’ remarks to Kemp’s may have escaped notice. Schoeps certainly showed no sense of cognitive dissonance, no unease with the twin acts of professing good will and delivering the message from an increasingly triumphalist narrative of the “Occupation,” whereby innocent Palestinians, victims of Israeli cruelty (à la Goldstone), were ready and willing to settle for a state on the ’67 borders (but no less!), while Israel was making it hard for everyone – “deliberately blocking the creation of a Palestinian state” – by settling a land thrice promised them (Bible, Qur’an, Five Nations at San Remo), and which she, as a new nation, has already earned many times over, in peace and in war. Instead, without even acknowledging what they do, the Europeans militate for a Judenrein Palestine on the Green Line, in which not even international troops stationed there can include Jews.
Indeed, the “international community” is unanimous that only way to make a much-needed peace, is to proleptically designate all this land, “Palestinian,” and therefore view any settlements as the key barrier to peace. Two states, side by side. The only solution. Little matter that this approach puts the burden on Israel to make unreciprocated concessions, and supports the war strategy of her enemies. None of them pause for a moment to consider that the Palestinian’s negotiate in bad faith, and that creating a Palestinian State and forcing an Israeli withdrawal will vastly increase the chances of war, not the chances of peace.
So dominant is this narrative, so disdainful is it of Jewish religious and historical claims, that, as Jacques Gauthier later suggested, a “shocking” number of the new generation of Israelis, even at ministry levels, don’t even know the arguments in Israel’s favor that they don’t use. And one can certainly understand why they don’t use them: why invoke Israel’s rights when it only leads European schizoids to roll their eyes like petulant teenagers?
Daniel Taub reminded the audience of the prohibitive odds against success in the beginning, as calculated by James Joyce’s Leon Blum when handed a Zionist flier one June day in Dublin, 1904:
…a barren land, bare waste, volcanic lake, the dead sea, no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth, a dead sea in a dead land grey and old. the oldest people wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere, it lay there now. Now it could bear no more.
Odds probably less than those of the Patriot’s in the 4th quarter of the Superbowl: >99.8 to <.2%, the impossibly miniscule.
By the time the five nations to whom the Ottomans had given register of this land, as Jacques Gauthier reminded us, gathered at San Remo and, directly quoting the Balfour Declaration, designated it for the Jews on condition they respect the civil and religious rights of the other inhabitants, the odds had improved. By 1931, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the real hand behind Balfour remarked:
Zionism has brought to an old land, a renowned but a ruined old land, new wealth, new energy, new purpose, new initiative, new intelligence, a new devotion and a new hope. Zionism has not finished its task, far from it, but it has already accomplished so much as to demonstrate that the land flowing with milk and honey was no baseless legend.
But even then, in the early 1930s, the odds were still low, and the remorseless triumphalist Muslim enemy was only beginning to rear its head.
And yet, in this century since Balfour, the Jews have fulfilled their obligations and inherited their promise. Today, in the former Ottoman Empire, only Israel maintains San Remo’s standards of civil and religious rights for its minority inhabitants. The difference between East Jerusalem under Jordanian and under Israeli “occupation” illustrates the gap, and foreshadows the current intolerance of an increasingly erratic Muslim Arab political culture for minorities and dissidents of any kind.
Which brings us possibly back to Kemp’s explanation for this schizoid condition.
Why do European countries exploit Israel’s capabilities with one hand and stab her in the back with the other?
he asked and paused. I was wondering which of the standard explanations he’ll highlight. Jew-baiting? Underdogma? Realpolitik?
For me, the most surprising and welcome single word of the day. Kemp reads the continuing pro-Palestinian position of the European cultural elite [increasingly dominant when least appropriate, after 2000], as a way to placate Muslim populations abroad and at home: Arab nations, European Muslims whose “Street” they fear, and whose votes they want, and the Jihadis who, as we see again and again, can get very nasty with those who offend them, however slightly. So rather than go after the real villains who threaten not only Israel, but Europe, they prefer to wage a war of a million cuts against Israel, even as they profess their (former) admiration for her.
In this reading, the Europeans aggressively repeat the failed Oslo formulas – “land for peace” “end the occupation” “stop the settlements” – not because they have thought these things through, but because they feel they have no choice. Any criticism of the Palestinians will anger highly volatile Muslims. Any siding with Israel will alienate them. The result is what Matti Friedman has called the “Cult of the Occupation,” that is people who believe with a religious fervor that the only way forward is to end the Occupation: an act of faith that reduces cognitive dissonance by justifying cowardice, indeed rewriting cowardice as a courageous act of support for the “underdog.”
Israel, in Kemp’s reading, is like the Muhammad cartoons: a highly emotive issue for Muslims about which they’re known to fly off the handle. It’s best to be a proleptic dhimmi – submit to their blasphemy laws (defined as “what hurts their feelings”) before, without, being conquered. After all, that’s what a dhimmi is: one who appeases Muslims.
And alas for us, one of the best way to appease, is not only to avoid angering, but also to take the side of those you fear, in the hopes that they will thereby be well-inclined towards you: hence the war of a million cuts against the factitious Goliath. Maybe the reason that Schoeps feels no cognitive dissonance, has no sense of contradiction in what he says, no sense that he’s “stabbing” his alleged friend and ally in the back, is because trying to act consistently in his (Europe’s) own interest takes a back seat to reducing his anxiety. That is, after all, the purpose of appeasement – making the world safer for me… for the time being… at the expense of someone else… in this case, my professed friend and valuable ally. Mean and Stupid. And yet, Schoeps seems decidedly neither.
Perhaps by understanding the fear that underlies the inanity of the schizoid European position, we can begin to understand how to deal with it. Above all, it means understanding that not everyone feels the fear directly. A good number of people are cushioned from ever encountering serious Muslim aggression by conforming to the proleptic dhimmi leaders of their culture, people who lay down the narrow range of acceptable remarks one can make about Islam and Muslims, people who shame and punish those they deem Islamophobes, i.e., people whose words these dhimmi leaders fear might insult, alienate, provoke the Muslim world. No wonder they hate Israel, who, by its very existence, does precisely that.
Perhaps if we can convey to our European friends how dangerous their denial, how much it weakens them in the face of the very people they seek to mollify, how much it strengthens the most aggressive among their foes, how, by adopting their deranged attitude towards Israel, European progressives incite the hatreds that also target them too?
Perhaps if Europeans could see themselves in the eyes of their foes whom they fear, the triumphalist Muslims, they might snap out of their stupor. In the March of 2003, for example, the French were exultant at their brave opposition to the US in the UN, proclaiming their courage because “they attacked the strongest, America.” “They Arabs see the French as weak,” wrote a friend from Tunis, “because they attack their friends and side with their enemies.” If they think they ingratiate themselves to triumphalist Muslims with their soothing support, they have another thing coming.
Not that communicating the problem will be easy. At the end of the conference I asked Schoeps what he thought about Kemp’s remark about contradictory European positions. The exchange went something like this.
RL: what did you make of Kemp’s remarks about the EU support of Goldstone and NATO’s coming to Israel for advice on how to keep civilian casualties down?
JS: This is all so strange and makes no sense to me.
JS: It’s detached from reality.
Me: What’s the reality?
JS: The reality is that Israel has to make peace. You can’t just say, it is impossible to make peace.
RL: I think what’s being said is, “the peace process the way you’re trying is impossible.”
JS: Possibly, but it doesn’t help.
RL: I don’t understand. You don’t want to rule out bad approaches and try new ones?
JS: I fear that Europe and Israel will part paths even more in the future.
Until Europeans understand that their reasoning and the diplomacy is self-damaging (euphemism for suicidal), they’re unlikely to reconsider and unlikely to change a pattern of behavior that systematically empowers the global jihadis and weakens them. Until they understand that we and they, indeed infidels the world over and Muslim dissidents, have a common and ruthless enemy with boundless imperial ambitions, they will continue beating up on us, strengthening them, and weakening their own “progressive” cause.
The question is, how does one communicate these things without alarming one’s interlocutors and triggering the deafening dhimmi response: Islamophobe!
To put it bluntly, the fate of continents hangs in the balance.