Postscript: How could the world have gotten Israel so wrong?
M.K.Bhadrakumar writes off-line: “Interesting! How could the international community have got Israel so hopelessly wrong? Anti-Semitism?” There is enough of that, particularly among Europeans (who will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz), but it is ridiculous to think that Chancellor Angela Merkel, by far the most poweful European leader, is anti-Semitic. Nor for that matter is Indian Prime Minister Modi, who congratulated Prime Minister Netanyahu on his re-elction in a Hebrew-language message, and who in any case may abandon support for a Palestinian state at the UN. The League of Nations did not betray China in 1931 out prejudice towards Chinese, but out of cynicism.
But the West’s great weakness in such matters, as I wrote back in 2004, is something else: Horror and humiliation are the two great themes of world affairs in our time. The Islamic world cannot stand humiliation and the West cannot stand horror. The notion that nations may destroy themselves out of despair overwhelms Western sensibilities, and especially those of Western liberals, whose reason for being there is the premise that enlightened policy can heal all ills. Never in the entire history of warfare, as I observed in my post yesterday, has a belligerent done what Hamas did during the Gaza War, namely maximize civilian casualties on its own side in order to win sympathy. There is a reflex in the West to declare the deaths of civilians “unacceptable” even if it is engineered by Hamas, by placing rockets in civilian areas and preventing in many cases the evacuation of civilians. Under these circumstances civilian deaths, even very large numbers of them, are entirely justified.
Hamas understands the West better than the West understands Hamas. The horror over civilian deaths overwhelms the West and prompts a significant body of Western opinion to demand a “solution” where no solution is to be found. The Germans have had their fill of horror and lose their capacity for rational calculation under the circumstances. There are of course other considerations. China has a multi-milliennial historyof extermining unruly barbarians on its periphery and suffers from no such squeamishness. The Chinese like the Jews–if anything the world’s largest country is philo- rather than anti-Semitic. Chinese contempt for Arabs is bottomless, for the Chinese prize success, and the Arab states are mainly failures. But China plays its cards according to its perceived self-interest. A Chinese analyst of international affairs told me, “Israel is an American ally, and China gains nothing by voting with Israel at the UN. The US will veto resolutions against Israel at the Security Council. There is no reason for China to do so. If Israel’s American ally fails to protect it, that is not China’s problem. If Israel wishes to become China’s ally, that is a different discussion.”
Of course, Israel does not wish to become China’s ally, for any number of reasons, including the historical fact that China does not now and never has had allies. It has never entered into a system of international alliances that would entangle it overseas.
But this is short-sighted: the most populous Arab state, namely Egypt, has a government committed to international stabiity and economic progress. The world community should unite to help Egypt achieve its goals, and back the responsible leadership of President al-Sisi against self-destructive spoilers like Hamas. That means putting the Palestinian issue on the back burner as long as Hamas dominates the Palestinian discourse, and concentrating on the hard work of improving the conditions of life of Arabs in the most important Arab state.
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