Israel, Canary of the West

Whatever nation won't fight to win, disappears.

Many years ago during a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians - which narrows it down to the last few thousand years or so - your humble correspondent was at a dinner with a senior European business executive.  The conversation turned to current events, thence inevitably to the conflict in the Middle East.

Monsieur Europ, as with so many Europeans, leaned toward the side of the Palestinians.  He found it incomprehensible that Americans so nearly universally supported the nation of Israel as it, from his point of view, pounded on helpless barely-armed natives with the full force of modern technology.  Me being an American, he took the opportunity to ask why that was.

My answer was twofold.  First, I said, Israel takes pains to try to hit military targets; sure a lot of civilians are killed, but never on purpose.  For Hamas as with all terrorists, killing unarmed civilians is the whole objective because they're a softer target and less able to defend themselves.  Americans view that as unsavory.

But furthermore, when Americans see Israel on TV, we see ourselves.  The streets of Israel look more or less like American streets or at least familiar Western European ones, with beautiful, stylishly dressed women and young men in jeans and T-shirts.  On the Palestinian side, in stark contrast, it's bearded goatherders carrying AK-47's and ghosts in black shrouds.  Nothing like us, and indeed, nobody we want to have around.  Naturally our sympathies are with the more familiar.

Forced to Fight the War of History

Unfortunately, these similarities go the other way too - Israel is very much a modern Western country, subject to the same weaknesses and prone to the same mental failings.  No civilization anywhere in all of time up until the last century would ever have put up with the constant suicide bombings, kidnappings, rocket assaults and general mayhem that the nation of Israel has endured from the Palestinians for a half-century; any historical nation would have simply exterminated them all long ago.

You might argue that the land belonged to the Palestinians before the nation of Israel was created in 1948.  So what?  History is made up of winners and losers, and some of the latter are expunged so thoroughly that we only know about them from celebratory records of the winners.

Only in Western culture and only very recently has anyone ever thought it odd to wipe out the losers so they'll never  bother you again.  Even as recently as WW II, when a group of softies expressed regret that Allied bombing was killing so many German children, a popular sentiment was, "Well, if we don't kill 'em now, our sons will have to kill 'em 20 years from now."  After all, during World War I 20 years before that hadn't been done, and here were the Germans wrecking the world yet again.

The adjacent picture shows a counterexample: the Assyrians celebrating their victory over the Jews by impaling them, somewhere around 800 BC.  We note that there are still Jews around today, as well as (as)Syrians - but for at least several hundred years after, there wasn't a never-ending constant war.

There's an interesting comparison with the Old West in America.  Were white Europeans the invaders on the North American continent, and were the American Indians justified in defending their lands by force?  Of course they were, but the primitive culture and technology of the aboriginal Americans weren't able to prevent their dispossession.

Were America's Indians wiped out?  No - as soon as they stopped fighting and accepted their reduced circumstances, we stopped killing them.  Nobody would say that the descendants of native tribes are, on the whole, well off today, but they aren't dead, and some at least have done quite well for themselves.  They have the same opportunity as any other American, which is more than can be said of almost any other conquered people throughout all of history.

Wars Don't End - Until They Do

Why hasn't this kind of roughly peaceable settlement happened in the Holy Land?  Because of the collision of two irrational forces: the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the reality that They Lost, and the refusal of Israel to keep fighting until they do admit that they've lost.

Every time there's yet another intifada, Israel hammers their enemy for a while.  Then, instead of reaching a final conclusion involving expulsion or at least unconditional surrender, there's just a "ceasefire" to allow Hamas time to rearm for the next round.

The war will never end that way, and with every cycle, the anti-Western forces that monopolize our media and elite structures are able to further demonize the nation of Israel which is doing nothing more than nations have always done - in fact, which they must do if they want to be a nation at all.

What nation can tolerate armed invaders constantly murdering its citizens and flinging explosives over the border?  Not a nation that expects to stay independent.

You might argue, well, what nation could tolerate having most of its land taken away by outsiders?  Actually, most of them have, at one time or another.  Virtually every nation in Europe once was much larger than it is today.  England used to own the top half of France; Sweden owned Finland, Norway and the Baltics.  France under Charlemagne controlled almost as much of Europe as Hitler did, and for longer.

Is France less French, England less English, or Sweden less a nation because of these historical reverses?  At the time they no doubt they seemed devastating, but now they're just dusty pages in an old textbook.  Each country moved on and is successful in its own right.

Why can't the Palestinians do the same?  Because, laboring under the inhuman dictates of their religion, they choose not to - which is their right, but that also makes it Israel's right and obligation to force them to or to eliminate them.

The very laws of war underscore this principle: an army is supposed to accept the surrender of enemy soldiers, but is never required to spare the lives of enemy soldiers who are still fighting.  The same applies at the national level, and there never was a war that was fought without civilian casualties.

The only way to bring a war to a conclusion is to do just that - bring the war to a conclusion.  Stopping for repeated time-outs only makes it last longer, and getting bored or disgusted with the war merely makes it more probable that the other side will win in the end.  For the Jews, as Hamas repeatedly and publicly says, that would mean their entire annihilation.

To their own profound hazard, Israel has suffered from the same self-destructive disease of modern Europe and the United States, in which our "ethics" prevent ourselves from taking actions of self-preservation.  Both Europe and the United States are too nice to expel the millions of impoverished, disease-ridden illiterate illegals who are bankrupting us.  We smashed up Iraq and Afghanistan but are too impatient to stick around and build them into something decent, with the inevitable result that the end there will be worse than the beginning.

Israel has both an advantage and a disadvantage: They are not large or remote enough to survive this kind of mushy thinking.  If they don't stand up for themselves they'll be exterminated by the Muslim barbarians who surround them on every side and most of whom are sworn to bring about exactly that end.  Al Qaeda and Iran have sworn the same end for us, but we at least can somewhat hide behind thousands of miles of ocean.

Still, Israel serves the function of the legendary canary in the coal mine: If Israel dies or is visibly ailing, the rest of the West is in deadly danger.  If we aren't willing to help keep Israel healthy, at least we need to heed its warning.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
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