The Magazine

Europe to Israel--Drop Dead

Why self-defense by the Jewish state is verboten.

Apr 22, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 31 • By DAVID GELERNTER
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ISRAEL IS IN BIG TROUBLE with nearly the whole enlightened world--European "peace activists" and Arab diplomats and Zbigniew Brzezinski and all sorts of mainstream American journalists--for not allowing Palestinian terrorists to kill its citizens with impunity. The Europeans rushed to the West Bank town of Ramallah to surround and protect the world's best-loved terrorist--that kindly old grump Yasser Arafat, hero of his people, idol of Europe, Nobel laureate, ripper-up of Jewish children. No Israeli would dare shoot Arafat if there were any risk of harming a European in the process; that was the premise. Luckily for the Europeans, it was never put to the test, because the Israelis (as they had repeatedly demonstrated) had no intention of killing Arafat. Meanwhile, trivia experts were trying to remember the last time European "activists" had ever rushed anywhere to protect Israeli lives.

Brzezinski explained, on the "Lehrer News Hour," that Israelis were treating Palestinians the way white South Africans used to treat blacks--a vintage lie from the 1970s, which was a great decade for lying. Brzezinski no doubt had in mind that, while diversity-loving Palestinians eagerly welcome Jewish settlers to the West Bank, the apartheid-crazed Israelis refuse to allow Arabs to live in Israel.

American journalists sigh with their famous superior weariness about the "cycle of violence"--a phrase that serves in this context as a substitute (or sometimes antidote) for thought. One day we will hear a network news-show reporter say something like, "Here in the United States, the aimless cycle of violence continues. Criminals murder people, and the police chase them down and arrest them. But does that end the violence? Brand new criminals murder more people, and the police arrest them, whereupon new criminals murder more people, tit for tat; where will it all end?" If only the average Israeli cabinet minister had one tenth the wisdom and moral probity of the lowliest office temp at NBC, we would all have it made.

And then there is "rage." Naturally as the death toll from the vicious suicide attacks rose, Israeli rage mounted. But somehow it is always the rage of the Palestinians that is under discussion. Evidently the more Jews they murder, the angrier they get. But never mind, Palestinian rage is noble. Jewish rage is racist, or perhaps invisible.

You might conclude they are all lunatics, these deep thinkers; but they are not. Their statements make perfect sense once you understand the two premises on which they are based. First, history began this morning. Second, dead Jews don't count.

The deep thinkers are outraged because the Israeli Army has inflicted "humiliation" on Palestinians in terrorist breeding grounds. That is the word they keep using: "humiliation." Evidently the Israeli army awoke one morning with nothing better to do than mobilize, strike off into dangerous West Bank villages, and humiliate Palestinians.

Listening to the deep thinkers, you ask yourself: Is it not the case that over recent months, terrorists have murdered in cold blood hundreds of Jews (and some Israeli Arabs), smashing them against walls and crushing them under falling roofs, tearing mothers and fathers to pieces alongside their children, lacerating their bodies with shattered glass and jagged metal until blood ran in the streets and body parts were plastered all over the landscape? Did this happen on some other planet? But these murders make no impression on European "peace activists" or suave Arab diplomats or their friends, because the murder of Jews is invisible. The state of Israel (vicious unprincipled institution that it is) has this unwritten law: If you murder Jews, there will be consequences. It is a law that strikes many Europeans and Arabs as so outrageous as to be literally incomprehensible.

Even Israel's good friends (and for that matter many Israelis) have warned the Israel Defense Force against humiliating Palestinians. Palestinians must be treated with dignity. Agreed. But I cannot join the chorus. The words won't come. I am looking at a copy of the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv from a few days ago, with four Israeli soldiers smiling at me from the front page in that awkward, camera-crooked way young men have. All four were killed in one day in the territories. A small death toll by recent Palestinian-atrocity standards; who can even remember? Yet their faces are so familiar I can almost recall their names.