Think Again: Esau and Ishmael allied

On the centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the multiple deformations in the Arab world.

By
April 8, 2009 10:48
Think Again: Esau and Ishmael allied

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Jewish eschatology contains numerous references to an alliance between Esau (Rome, the West) and his father-in-law Ishmael (Islam) against the Jewish people toward the end of history. Frankly, I've always had a hard time imaging such an alliance between clashing civilizations. Perhaps my mistake lay in imagining a sort of updated Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. What we are witnessing instead today is Western appeasement and submission to Islam. In both the United States and Western Europe an effective double-standard has been carved out for Islam. Scorn for traditional religions and their adherents is fine, even praiseworthy, as long as it is confined to Judaism or Christianity. But toward Islam, we must show respect. The lesson that Europeans learned from the Danish cartoons episode was that it is not wise to rile Muslims. Noting Islam's unlovely propensity for producing adherents eager to kill in its name inevitably triggers murderous riots that prove the point being protested. Britain's recent refusal to permit Dutch parliamentarian Geerts Wilder into the country and the criminal prosecution against him in his own country provide a classic example of anticipatory compliance. The fear that showing of Wilder's movie Fitna, consisting primarily of quotes from the Koran, to a group of British parliamentarians would trigger riots trumped traditional Anglo-Saxon support for freedom of thought and argument. THE WEST'S astounding passivity in the face of Iran's racing nuclear program is the most consequential form of appeasement. In three months in office, the Obama administration's sole initiative on the Iranian front has been a video from President Barack Obama full of paeans to the great Persian culture, for which he received mostly spittle in return. By contrast, the administration has been hyperactive on the Palestinian-Israeli front. The president's first foreign policy initiative was to appoint a special Mideast envoy, who has already visited the region several times. The president and his secretary of state constantly stress the urgency of the "two-state solution" and the unsustainability of the status quo. The Arab-Israeli conflict, we keep hearing from Washington, holds the key to all Middle East conundrums. That inversion of priorities makes no logical sense. The possession of nuclear weapons by an ideologically expansionist power sitting atop or adjacent to a large percentage of the world's oil supply and serving as a patron of terrorist groups around the world would permanently change the world in ways too painful to contemplate. Sunni leaders know this and repeatedly told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Iran constitutes a far bigger threat to regional stability than Israel. On the other hand, an imposed "two-state solution" would change little in the Middle East. Arab countries would continue to be plagued by high rates of illiteracy, second-class citizenship for women, lack of scientific or technological training, and the absence of civil liberties even in the unlikely event of peace with the Palestinians. The only consequence of such a "solution," particularly if it left Israel uninhabitable after a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, would be to strengthen the narrative of Islamic ascendancy and whet the jihadist appetite. Few propositions are so easily refuted as the centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the multiple deformations in the Arab world. Not one of the major bloodlettings in the region is remotely attributable to Israel: the Iraq-Iran War, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its aftermath, civil wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria, the slaughter of 20,000 Syrian citizens in Homa. Finally, resolute Western action with respect to Iran might actually achieve something. Iran's economy is highly vulnerable, particularly with oil prices low. Yet rather than exploit Iran's economic weakness and lack of petroleum refining capacity, major European firms have signed billion dollar deals to lessen that vulnerability by helping Iran develop its refining capacity. But there is scant hope of progress on the Palestinian front, particularly if peace, not just signed agreements, is the goal. "Moderate" Muhammad Dahlan, carefully cultivated by the United States for more than a decade, now admits that Fatah has never recognized Israel's right to exist. Hamas, for its part, repeats over and over again that it will never recognize Israel in any borders. The Palestinian Authority continues to honor as heroes perpetrators of massacres of Jewish civilians. Billions of dollars of international aid continues to go to maintaining multiple security forces and feathering the nests of Palestinian officials rather than building a decent society. And from an Israeli point of view, as long as rockets continue to fall from every area from which we withdraw, there is no chance of further withdrawals. WESTERN SUBMISSION and passivity are only part of the story. Ever larger segments of elite and left-wing Western opinion have signed on to Hamas's exterminationist agenda. Comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany are so commonplace in European discourse that they no longer even shock. Oliphant's cartoon of a jackbooted Israel has now brought this obscenity to the mainstream American press. Operation Cast Lead is said to have brought Israel's international standing to a new nadir. Responding to their accusers, Israelis ask: What other country in the world would have tolerated three years of rockets shot from across the border at its civilian population? How would you have brought those missiles to a halt in a more "gentle" fashion than Israel has? Why are you obsessed with the deaths of 300 civilians in Gaza brought about by the policies of their duly elected leaders (think of the civilian population of Germany under Hitler), but so oblivious to the killings of hundreds of thousands of black Muslims in Sudan? Very good questions to be sure, and not ones to which there are any answers. But their effectiveness depends on the assumption that the one being asked accepts Israel's right to exist at all. Europeans view our very presence in this place as the last vestige of Western colonialism. On a tour of US college campuses, The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh found more support for Hamas among non-Muslim professors and students than exists in Ramallah. "We should not be surprised," he wrote, "if the next generation of jihadists comes... from university campuses across the United States." The noose, then, is tightening around Israel's neck as a result of both Western submission and acquiescence to raging Islam. All this was predicted long ago. What can we do? We have just experienced again the Seder night - leil shimurim. One explanation of the language of shmira is to anticipate and look forward to something. On the Seder night, God not only guards us, He looks forward and anticipates His final redemption of the Jewish people from the clutches of Esau and Ishmael. All He awaits is some sign from us of our own eager anticipation.

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