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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 01, 2003

Iraq and Israel: A Jew answers back

"Many people in this country [England] and around the world believe that to be anti-war you need to be anti-Israel. But they are wrong. And this is why... " A smart Jew answers a dumb Jew on Iraq, war, Israel, and the Palestinians
[...] As a Jew I wish to say that I am made equally distraught by the inadvertent rhetoric of her [ Alibhai-Brown's] distress. "Some 600 or so Israelis have been murdered by Palestinians," she reminds us, wishing to be even-handed. "That is unequivocally condemned by me. But 2,000 or more Palestinians have been massacred by the overwhelming force of the Israeli army." Note the "but", which if it does not exactly make her "unequivocally" equivocal again, points to qualitative, no less than quantitive, difference in the deaths. Not just 2,000 as against 600, but "massacred" as against "murdered", and massacred by an overwhelming force, as though there is nothing overwhelming about a bomb in a suicide bomber's pocket, and as though it is not a massacre when it goes off on a crowded school bus.

Is that last phrase rhetoric of my own? No doubt it is. We are at war, here, as to who is the victim of whom. We would do well, on both sides, to drop the concept of victim altogether. We are in too deep for it now. But that is asking a lot in the eyes of those who "see connections", because Israel, as every schoolboy knows and is keen to demonstrate on Question Time, is armed to the teeth. "Why not disarm Israel as well then?" comes the question at more or less the same point of every public debate, as though there is exact or indeed any equivalence between Saddam's deployment of arms and Israel's. "Israel also flouts the wishes of the United Nations and has weapons of mass destruction." Followed by applause. A little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

None of us can be absolutely sure what would have happened, had such and such not happened also, but there is no Jew of my acquaintance, let him be the staunchest opponent of Israel's present policies, who doubts that without the appropriate deterrents Israel would long ago have been driven into the sea. Humanity is short on memory. Thirty-five years ago "brave little Israel" was everybody's favourite underdog, putting to flight the armies of however many Arab countries bent on its destruction. The mistake it made, as far as public relations went, was to learn from its own history and beef itself up militarily. A disappointment, that, to sentimentalists the world over. We preferred Israel svelte and fragile. We enjoyed the frisson of its being ever on the brink. Too bad. Every country has to grow up some time. And no one loves you when you're old and grey. But if Yasmin Alibhai-Brown cannot understand why her otherwise open and amenable Jewish friends go quiet when she tells them that Israel should be treated exactly as Bush and Blair propose we treat Iraq, here is the reason: Israel has the weapons it has because without them it would not exist.[more]