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I've been thinking a lot about my father lately. He used to say, "If the world is prepared to stand by and watch Jews be slaughtered again, then the world does not deserve to exist."
That moment, I fear, has come. Israel's existence has become, in the eyes of much of the world, a big bother. References to the creation of Israel as a "mistake" not worth the price are now commonplace in European discourse.
Tony Judt (a Jewish professor) finds an ethnic-religious state like Israel to be an "anachronism" in a post-nationalist world. He sees no similar infirmity in all those Muslim states in which shari'a is the law of the land and non-Muslims are barred from citizenship.
Behind all this talk of mistakes and anachronisms lies the belief that if Israel disappeared the world would be a far happier place. Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in their infamous paper "The Israel Lobby" identify not one threat to world peace that is not directly attributable to Israel. Not Iran. Not North Korea.
The perfidy and trickiness of those sly Jews is beyond belief in Walt and Mearsheimer's telling. Israel, they charge, withdrew from Gaza with the deliberate intention of bringing Hamas into power and thereby ending the "peace process."
More recently, speaking before the Council on American-Islamic Relations, they claimed that Israel had long planned an invasion of Lebanon, and that Hizbullah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers was merely a pretext for doing so. Wasn't it clever of those Jews to trick Nasrallah into attacking Israel? I wonder how they did that.
The claim that support for Israel underlies virtually every act of Islamic terrorism is gospel in Europe. After British authorities uncovered a plot by native-born British Muslims to blow up 10 or more transatlantic carriers, Muslim peers and MPs in England audaciously wrote that England can only expect many more such plots as long as it does not alter its Middle East policy.
Rather than reacting with rage to the implicit threat from its own honored representatives, the British public lapped it up and forced Tony Blair into imminent retirement for daring to label the view that the West is responsible for Islamo-fascism more than a bit daft. Now Blair himself has lent credence to that notion by linking any progress in Iran and Iraq to further Israeli territorial concessions.
Yet even in the Middle East itself, the greatest losses of life have had no connection to Israel: the million lives lost in the Iraqi-Iranian war, the hundreds of thousands of Muslims slaughtered by their fellow Muslims in Darfur, civil wars in Algeria and Yemen, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Syria's murder of more than 25,000 of its own citizens in Hama.
MUCH OF the West not only laments Israel's creation, but is prepared to assist in reversing that historical mistake. Despite repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still treated to submissive visits from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a host of European dignitaries, and a fawning interview by America's toughest TV journalist focusing on his sweet family and sartorial tastes.
Three years of European dithering make clear that no serious sanctions will be imposed on Iran. President George W. Bush was the last hope that the West would act decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But with the Democratic takeover of Congress, he lacks the political capital for any such audacious step, especially given the inevitable shock to the world's oil supply and Western economies that would surely follow.
The Europeans may secretly hope that Israel will save their lunch with a preemptive strike on Iran (though whether Israel has the capability to render a significant blow to the Iranian program is much in doubt), but harsh international condemnation would follow an Israeli attack, as it did after Osirak in 1981. Europe would likely use an Israeli attack as an opportunity to offer Israel up to the Arab states by declaring her a pariah state.
The recent UN General Assembly condemnation of all Israeli actions to stop missile fire at Israeli civilians from Gaza - with the United States, Australia and Canada the only nations of significance opposing or abstaining - typifies the denial of Israel's right to self-defense.
The West has made the terrorists' tactic of embedding themselves among civilians a win-win proposition: If their missiles kill Israelis, that is a win; and if Israel strikes back at those firing those missiles and kills civilians as well, that is a win too.
Those who routinely condemn every Israeli attempt to strike back at those operating from among civilians populations as "disproportionate" or "war crimes," without ever specifying how Israel should protect its citizens, effectively deny Israel the right to defend itself.
The irony, however, is that by denying Israel the right to self-defense, the Europeans only make more likely the most disastrous possible outcomes. Given Israel's vulnerability to missile attack, and the world's condemnation of any response, the Palestinians will be tempted to use the more advanced weaponry currently pouring into Gaza to keep Israel in a permanent state of mobilization and to make life generally intolerable.
At that point, it will literally be them or us. Especially if the Palestinians were to unleash their missiles in the midst of a conventional war with Syria or Egypt or both, Israel would have no choice but to level Palestinian areas and send the population packing.
Where things would go from there no one wants to contemplate. But the West should not count on Israel to go quietly into the night.
By refusing to take Iran's nuclear threats seriously or permit Israel to defend itself in the same fashion as any other nation, the West could well be sowing its own worst-case scenario.
Dad would have appreciated the irony.