I won the Nobel Peace prize for reconciling Catholics and Protestants in
Northern Ireland. I'm presently on a ship in the Mediterranean trying to bring
humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the Israelis won't let me. What should I do?
Baffled from Belfast
Load your cargo onto camels and head for Kyrgyzstan. They need it more there.
I am prime minister of a Muslim country with 75 million citizens. Our empire
once ruled the Muslim world and a great deal besides, and we very much would
like to do so again. Recently I have
asserted our leadership of Muslim causes, for example, breaking Israel's
blockade of Gaza. What should I do next? Anxious in Ankara
Your problem is that the sort of rhetoric that plays well with the local
audience makes you sound like an evil clown in the United States. Whatever
Israeli commandos did on the Mavi Marvara, it's not a "war crime" or an
act of "state terrorism", as your government proclaims. You need to work on
your image in order to avoid the impression that your country is crawling with
violence-prone barbarians with a paranoid chip on their collective shoulder.
The world still remembers the murder of perhaps three million Armenian, Greek
and Assyrian Christians between 1914 and 1925, not to mention the killing of as
many as 40,000 Kurds by Turkish security forces during the 1980s and 1990s.
It doesn't help when two groups of ethnic Turks, the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks,
slaughter each other. When you expostulate about
Gaza but say nothing about massacres in Kyrgyzstan, your credibility goes down
the drain. It betrays a narrowly political motivation, rather than religious or
even national concern. My advice: Announce that you will go to Kyrgyzstan to
mediate between the warring ethnic groups. Stay there as long as possible.
I'm the legitimate, internationally recognized representative of the
Palestinian people and the prospective president of a future Palestinian state,
but I get no respect. My security people got knee-capped and pushed off
rooftops in Gaza when Hamas took over in 2007. Now even the Americans are
talking about lifting the embargo on Gaza - not to mention the Europeans -
which would make Hamas look like a legitimate representative of the
Palestinians and leave me in the cold. What should I do? Rattled in Ramallah
You're suffering from a martyr gap with the competition. Hamas gets respect
because its supporters are happy to commit suicide. As they keep saying, "You
love life; we love death." The Turks sent a boat full of prospective martyrs
eager to die at the hands of the Israelis, and managed to produce nine corpses.
Hamas rocket attacks on Israel are designed to draw Israeli counter-attacks
which produce corpses, civilian or not. The horror evoked by suicide hurts
Western morale more than the fear of terrorism. Muslims perpetrated 1,944
suicide attacks between 2001 and 2008, not counting the efforts of Hamas,
Hezbollah, and others to provoke Israel into counter-attacks that claim
civilian lives as collateral damage. The West is founded on the notion of
redemption, that is, the hope that in every human being there exists some
inclination towards the good. Suicide is a real conversation-stopper. The West
cringes in horror at thought that a combatant culture can field an arbitrarily
large number of suicides.
All the evidence in the world that the prospective shahids on the Mavi
Marmara intended to die won't cure the queasiness of Western stomachs.
The fact of nine corpses on the deck overwhelms the sensibilities of Western
liberals, no matter how they got there. Your problem is that you don't have
enough corpses to lay out for the news media.
If you don't like how you're being treated, ask a few of your security people
to kill themselves in front of your office every morning. If they won't do
that, order them to kill some Hamas people in retaliation for all the murders
of your people in Gaza. The first will get you sympathy, and the second will
get you respect. If you can't persuade your people to do either, even after all
the American training and weapons they've received during the past few years,
you're out of options. Seek political asylum in another Muslim country -
I'm the prime minister of a small Jewish country in the Middle East. No matter
what we do, we get blamed for brutality. We tried to handle the Gaza
blockade-runners like errant hippies, and boarded the Mavi Marmara with
paintball guns. We have videos proving that our soldiers acted in self-defense
and nobody seems to care. We've captured whole shiploads of Iranian missiles
headed for Gaza. The French blew up a Greenpeace ship and nobody treated them
this way. What can I do to get a fair hearing in the world? Jittery in Jerusalem
There isn't a lot you can do, except in the United States, where most people
still believe in fairness, and a lot of people think that the Biblical reasons
for your country's founding are valid. You might want to produce a brief
television commercial showing some of the 7,000 Gazan patients treated each
year at Israeli hospitals; the Israeli field hospital in Haiti manned by a
200-person relief team that was first on the scene after the earthquake; and
other humanitarian aid provided by your country. And you might want to contrast
this with footage of the effect of terrorist bombings and rocket attacks, as
well as the video footage from the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. That
won't make much of a different, because American support for Israel already is
at a record high.
Your success, even your existence, is an affront to most Muslims. Polls show
that only a fifth of Arabs would accept a Jewish state in the Middle East under
any circumstances. That is because the return of the Jewish people to Zion, not
to mention their military, commercial, scientific and cultural achievements,
undermines Islamic triumphalism. Muslims ask themselves: How can the Koran be
God's final revelation, if the perfidious Jews enjoy strength and riches, and
their false prophets appear vindicated, while the faithful wallow in weakness
As for the Europeans, there isn't anything you can do to bring them around.
They have abandoned the Christian faith that created Europe in the first place
and have reconciled themselves to extinction. They abhor the idea of a Jewish
state, because they abhor anything that calls to mind their own Judeo-Christian
foundation. And they like to think of Jews as malefactors because it assuages
their lingering guilt over the Holocaust. Worst of all, they wish to appease a
growing Muslim population which over time will replace their own infertile
people. The Europeans, in short, are a race of cowards for whom truth does not
exist if it is inconvenient.
Your trading partners in Asia all have substantial Muslim minorities and have
no reason to rile them up by supporting you. Most of them privately hope that
you will succeed, but will not say so.
The Russians believe that America needs you as an ally in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the president of the United States seeks to reduce rather than
aggrandize America's influence in the world; apart from his sentimental
predilection for Islam, he is in principle against allies that strengthen
America. Therefore the Russians will do everything in their power to wreck your
relationship with Washington, the better to hurt America. If by chance you
survive, they will be happy to buy your drones and sell you military aircraft.
My advice is to defend yourselves as you see fit. You only have to make sure to
win. And remember: No good deed goes unpunished.
Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, senior editor of First Things