Interesting Times: Fighting Goliath

Hizbullah has smashed the Palestinians' David status.

saul singer 88 (photo credit: )
saul singer 88
(photo credit: )
The good news, and the bad news, is that we are not alone. We have never been alone, at least in our enemies' minds, because the war to destroy Israel has always been a war against the West. Since 9/11, it has become even clearer that the Islamist tolerance of non-Islamist power anywhere is no greater than its tolerance of a Jewish state. But now that Iran's proxy army has attacked Israel and we are busy destroying that army, it is impossible to deny that two jihads are actually one. Why is this good news? Because the bad news is that our war with the jihadis has never been winnable in the narrow terms we tend to view it in. Our problem has never been limited to the Palestinians. If the Palestinians were the only Arabs in the world, they would have settled with us long ago. Our problem is that the Arab/Muslim world, including its "nationalist" camp, is operating under a radical jihadi assumption: Jews have no right to a state in the Middle East. This is an application of the Islamic idea that non-Muslims may only live as dhimmis - a sort of protected, second-class status - under Muslim rule. This rule applies no less to Christian countries such as America and Europe than it does to Israel. THE ARAB STATES that have made peace with us have set aside this rule, which shows that it has a pragmatic component. Even Muhammed himself made peace agreements when he had no military alternative. Our task, therefore, has always been to make our destruction impractical until such time, perhaps far in the future, when the Islamic world transforms the idea of jihad into a symbol - like the Jewish ideal of building the Third Temple. Over the years, we have won wars and pursued peace agreements, all to reenforce our own permanence in the hope of triggering the pragmatic side of our enemies. In this context, making peace with the Palestinians - remember them? - was supposed to be a lever to accelerate the moderation of the Islamic world. What we have discovered, however, is that the radicalization of the Islamic world does not depend only on us, one way or the other. DOES ANYONE seriously believe that 9/11 wouldn't have happened if Israel did not exist? Actually, if Israel had been destroyed in 1948, 1967, or 1973, this major defeat of the West - in Islamist eyes - would likely have spurred the rise of militant Islamism earlier. Its terrorism would have more quickly targeted the West. Israel, like the Jewish people, has been the canary in the coal mine, attracting fire first from Islamists who hate and are threatened by the West regardless of any Western policy but because they cannot abide freedom, democracy, and non-Muslim rule. The fact that we are up against something much bigger than the Palestinians might be seen as bad news, even cause for hopelessness. But just as our Palestinian adversaries are not alone, neither are we. Our predicament has been that we have been fighting the Goliath of militant Islam on our own, while the world has seen us as a Goliath fighting a Palestinian David. And if we are Goliath, why come to our side? THIS IS WHY Hizbullah's attack was a strategic disaster for the Palestinians, and not just in the narrow sense of diverting attention from the pounding we continue to give Hamas in Gaza. The Palestinians, aside from a few revealing slip-ups, have assiduously tried to separate their conflict from the global jihad to protect their David status. Now Hizbullah and Iran have blown the Palestinians cover. That Israel is fighting the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah-Hamas-al-Qaida axis has become blindingly obvious. The subtitle on Time magazine's first cover on the war - "Why They Fight: And Why It's Different This Time" - was telling. The carefully cultivated Palestinian myth that the fight is over "occupation" rather than Israel's existence has become, for the moment, untenable. The bad news is that no amount of propping up that myth changes the fact that we are up against a Goliath. We have not been doing a bad job at defeating him on the battlefield, but it is very difficult to win in the long term if the rest of the world sides with that Goliath in a massive case of mistaken identity. The good news is that once the West realizes that we are fighting the same Goliath, we can confront that enemy together. We can trounce the Little Satan, Hizbullah, with international support, while the Security Council throws down the gauntlet to the Great Satan, Iran. We can, for once, cheer each other on and work for the same purpose, not against each other. The even better news is that Goliath is - well, like Goliath: big but vulnerable. Not so long ago the Soviet Union was considered invincible, a fact of life, and perhaps even ascendant. Jean-Francois Revel wrote his influential How Democracies Perish - bemoaning Western flaccidity in the face of the Soviet monolith - in 1984. Five years later the Soviet empire lay in a heap. Militant Islamism is what Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah called us: a spider's web. It may look solid and strong, but it is weak and can be cut through. It offers nothing to the Muslim world or anyone else except war and oppression. Its main pillar is the Iranian regime, which is hated by its own people, and has not a prayer of withstanding a fraction of the economic, diplomatic and military power that just four nations - the US, UK, France, and Germany - can bring to bear against it. Iran is actually less of a Goliath than a local bully, whose only theory of victory is that his victims, who are collectively and even individually stronger than he, will remain too intimidated to decisively confront him. Yes, now it's different. No matter how much we relapse into thinking otherwise, we are all in this together. [email protected]

- Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer is author of the book, Confronting Jihad: Israel's Struggle & the World After 9/11