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

May 04, 2003

The Left, the Right and the Jews

In some of our discussions about the ME we make facile references to the Left and the Right. This piece attempts to sort through categories to explain where they come from, and why, and what they seem to be based upon.

[...] Islamic terrorism had its origins in the campaign of the PLO to overthrow the state of Israel. Its initial purpose was to frighten the Jews into leaving Israel and win international recognition of the Palestinian cause. However in recent decades, at the same time as Palestinian terrorism against Israel has intensified, terrorism has been adopted as a favored tactic by a wide spectrum of Islamic groups whose goals include but are not confined to the destruction of the state of Israel. The program of these groups calls for the expulsion of all "foreign" influence from the Muslim world and the adoption of Islamic law as the law of the land in all countries with Muslim majorities. The spread of this movement, which is commonly called "Islamism", is largely due to two factors. One is the establishment of a Muslim theocratic regime in Iran in 1979, the other the cumulative effect of the many billions of dollars of oil money spent by Saudi Arabia to finance the establishment of Islamist schools and other institutions throughout the world. The Saudis have been ardent theocrats since the 18th century, at which time the Saud family began its rise to power in Arabia through its alliance with the Islamist religious movement of Wahhabi. In both Iran and Saudi Arabia, Muslim religious law has the force of secular law, meaning that women must obey Muslim religious restrictions, all teachings contrary to Islam are suppressed and the "hedonistic" culture of the West is banned. The goal of the Islamists is to extend this system elsewhere, and eventually to the entire world.
Medieval in its ideals, violent in its methods and totalitarian in its aspirations, Islamism would appear to constitute a classical example of a right wing movement. Yet that is not how a large segment of the international left perceives it. To the contrary, Osama bin Laden, undoubtedly the best known Islamist in the world today, is seen by many as a popular hero, a fighter for the poor and oppressed, a leader of the resistance against colonialism and imperialism. When the United States moved to retaliate against Bin Laden and his Taliban allies for the September 11 terrorist attacks, leftists in many countries organized demonstrations against the United States government. Islamist terrorists in such Muslim countries as Algeria and Egypt have been portrayed by many leftist analysts as spokesmen for the poor locked in struggle against the corrupt semi-secular regimes which rule these countries. And of course Islamist terrorism against Israelis, which has now reached staggering proportions, has been excused, explained, justified and "understood" by most leftists everywhere in the world. Yet if an Islamist regime were actually to be established in any of the countries in which these leftists live, they would be among its first victims. To what is this seemingly self-defeating behavior on the part of the international left to be attributed?
The short answer is called oil. The entire industrialized world runs on oil, and most of the world's oil reserves are located in countries with Muslim majorities. From this simple fact, which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, arises two conflicting strategies. One strategy says appease the Muslims so we can get the oil, the other says dominate the Muslims so we can get the oil. Many factors come into play in determining who adopts which strategy, but of these factors undoubtedly the most important is the possession or lack of military force. Those who lack military force must inevitably tend towards a strategy of appeasement. Conversely, the United States, as the country with the strongest military force and the greatest capacity to wield it anywhere in the world, is naturally tempted to pursue a strategy of domination. And as it is the right wing in most countries that feels most comfortable with a militarist policy, while the left generally prefers a policy of conciliation, it is the right wing in the United States, led by the Republican party, that has become most closely identified with the use of military force to secure the oil. It is this fact, more than any other, which inclines the US right to sympathy for Israel, while it is the opposition of the international left to a strategy of force which is primarily responsible for its hostility to Israel.
Because the left opposes the use of force, it must necessarily advocate appeasement of the Muslims, including even the Islamists; and since the Muslims in general and the Islamists in particular are hostile to Israel, the left feels duty bound to be hostile too. And because the US right favors the use of force, it is open to consideration of the Israeli point of view, since Israel has no choice but to oppose Palestinian and Islamic terrorism with the use of force. There is, however, a big difference between Israeli policy, which is basically defensive, and US policy, which is basically offensive. Moreover, the US, and even the US right, is far from wholehearted in its support of Israel. Even Bush has come out in favor of a Palestinian state, which under existing circumstances can have no other function than to serve as a base for intensified attacks on Israel on the part of the semi-secular, neo-Nazis of Fatah and the wholly Islamist terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There is only one way that Israel can overcome these heavy odds, and that is through the democratization of the Muslim world.
Fortunately, the democratization of the Muslim world is one thing which both the US right and the international left claim to want. The big question which stands before the world today is: what is the best way to achieve this goal? There is only one clear and obvious answer to this question and that is: through the defeat and destruction of the Islamist movement. Wherever the Islamists have come to power, they have suppressed competing political tendencies and instituted a regime of rigid thought control. But far from adopting a principled stand against the Islamists, the United States government has actually aided and abetted their cause by showering the Saudi monarchy with billions of dollars in oil money, which the Saudis have used to finance the spread of Islamism and even to provide indirect support for the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. Opposition to Islamism is really more of a left wing cause than it is a right wing cause. And please recall that the left was not always so inclined to a policy of appeasement and conciliation as it is today. The original leftists, the French republicans, built the finest army in Europe in order to defeat the monarchical forces which were arrayed against them. The Communists too fought wars to defeat their enemies, who included Hitler. If the international left really believed in its own principles and was not merely a lobby for peaceful access to oil, it would stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are fighting the Islamists today, and that includes first and foremost the state of Israel. [more]