by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
May 14, 2008
BRADENTON, Fla., May 14, 2008 -- Two natural disasters of vast magnitude have sadly overshadowed Israel's celebration of the 60th anniversary of its establishment in 1948. Its heroic struggle for the survival of the Jewish people, its historic, innovative nurture of a desert land that turned it into a self-sustaining nation, its high-tech leadership in the Age of the Internet, and its very special place as a democratic Mideast ally of the United States are all more than worth of celebration by its friends throughout the world.
But the celebration has been muted by more than natural disaster. This year's festivities have had the air of a Hillary Clinton victory party; you know she's won Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and now West Virginia, and she's still in the race, but for all the bright music, balloons and cheering crowds, a huge cloud of doubt hangs over her future. So it is with Israel.
In an article online today in Slate, atheist Christopher Hitchens draws a brutally clear line between the spiritual aspirations of Israel and its present reality amid a sea of enemies, and asks whether non-Jews who supported its creation and braced it during its half-century struggle for survival will still be there in support 50 years from now. In an article linked by Slate to the Hitchens piece, my friend Ron Rosenbaum battles the wisdom that Israel is too aggressive for its own good, or that its lobby in the United States is too powerful, and warns the world that Israel may be the scene of a "second Holocaust." A new book by Harvard professor Ruth Wisse argues that Jews have historically bent to accommodate majority regimes, only to find themselves later betrayed by that impulse. What none of the writers offer is a cause for feasting and celebration of Israel's self-styled "60th Birthday."
For the past 45 days or so, I have been immersed in reading Richard North Patterson's extraordinary novel, "Exile," the story of a Jewish-American lawyer who comes to defend a Palestinian Muslim woman against charges that she helped further a successful terrorist plot to assassinate the prime minister of Israel on a visit to San Francisco. The book is radically different from most popular thrillers in its dramatic juxtaposition of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land, because he achieves a broad representation of the humanity - and sometimes the inhumanity - of both peoples. It is a perspective sorely missed in the world press, and it is all the more striking because it is, incredibly, a novel, a work of imagination, that has finally brought a measure of objectivity to a centuries-old struggle that continues to threaten the peace and well-being of the entire planet.
Recently, here in the United States, right-wing radio has been observing the rise of a dangerous fascist, Michael Savage, whose sputtering hatred for Islam even embraces hatred for Wolf Blitzer, the Jewish CNN anchor, because he is not more adamantly pro-Israel in the Situation Room's coverage of the Middle East. "I spit in your face, Wolf Blitzer," this would-be Jewish Hitler screams at Blitzer. His ugly, racist and bitter descriptions of Islam in general have scared away many advertisers, but otherwise mainstream radio stations continue to air his evil rants. And what does this have to do with Israel?
As Hitchens, Ron Rosenbaum, Ruth Wisse and a host of other writers might agree, Israel is losing its price of place as America's foremost ally after Britain, and Savage is one product of its desperate frustration. The enthusiasm with which Hillary Clinton promised massive retaliation should Israel be attacked was not widely embraced; the fact that Barack Obama, while denouncing Hamas and branding it a terrorist nation that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, can nonetheless "understand" why Hamas leaders support his candidacy, is a far cry from the hewn-in-marble stance that serious presidential candidates before him have taken with respect to Israel. And then there is Ahmadinejad, a snarling attack dog at the gates of an Islamic junkyard.
Most Americans probably prefer to believe that time and the Iranian people will eventually rid them of the Iranian president, whose vile comments about Israel probably mask a deep fear that Iran's nuclear enrichment program will be abruptly terminated by an Israeli attack. But Hitchens points out that a credo of the Iranian extremists is that martyrdom of the Iranian people in a nuclear firestorm in which both nations were destroyed would leave one billion Muslims still standing, while only two-third of the Jewish people, or about 12 million, would remain in the United States, Europe and Russia.
While radio's Michael Savage is almost a raving mirror opposite of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the rest of the world remains oddly complacent about the Iranian leader's comments. They are regularly denounced and just as readily absorbed and forgotten, but they have spread a deep disquiet throughout the Jewish world because they so faithfully imitate the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis of World War II. Neither the Congress, for whom it is not an accustomed role, nor the State Department, whose place it is, nor the White House, which is struggling mightily with a host of threats and challenges, has managed to sustain a determined rhetorical onslaught against Ahmadinejad. On has to believe that they think doing so has no useful purpose.
Instead, these entities and much of the world is focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways in which it might be ameliorated, and further, how the great gulf that has opened between Islam and the Western World in the past decade or two might somehow be closed. Israel is the ultimate pawn in this game, offering the token sacrifice that might set the world right. But Israel will not go willingly into that "dark night." It will fight to the very end for its existence, and never surrender its land or its people to subjugation again.
Given these tensions between surrounding nations that want it destroyed and Israel's right and desire to exist, is there any real hope that despite the Biblical promise of Armageddon, the world will not have to endure a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East, either of Israel, Iran, Syria, the West Bank, or any other nation? It seems less and less likely that a "war of resolution" can be avoided.
Having struggled to survive in hostile societies for so many centuries, accommodation and practicality have become a part of the Jewish heritage. They are a bright, resourceful, creative and accomplished people who by virtue of their long suffering and the triumph of Israel - because, when all is said and done, it is a triumph in itself - who will survive. Whether they would ever welcome an invitation from Europe and the United States to migrate en masse to our respective nations in order to forestall a nuclear clash is an unguessable proposition, but it is one the Western world certainly ought to be prepared to offer.
Failing that, there must never be doubt that the United States will commit itself fully to the defense of Israel if it is attacked with nuclear weapons. The problem is, however, that after an attack there will be no meaningful existence possible, either in Israel or any nation that attacks it.
These issues lie not too deeply beneath the surface as the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding winds up today. Yet for all that its people have given to a world that has not always welcome them, we honor and celebrate the Jewish people and their foundling state. May the God that governs all, even Christopher Hitchens, keep Israel an its very special people well and whole for centuries to come.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter.