November 25, 2005

THEY HATE ISRAEL BECAUSE THEY HATE THEIR OWN CULTURE:

How did we forget that Israel's story is the story of the West? (Charles Moore 26/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

If one stands back from the moral argument that rages round Israel, and just looks at this as a story, it reminds one intensely of that of ancient Israel's enemy, the Roman republic. An austere nation builds its power in the face of enemy neighbours. It does so by great feats of arms, and so its soldiers often become its political leaders. The commitment those leaders must give to the nation is absolute, lifelong, life-threatening. The deeds done in the nation's defence are frequently brave, sometimes appalling. Some would see Sharon as Milosevic, but might he not be Caesar?

But there's also an important difference from Rome: the purpose of victory has been more about security than conquest for its own sake. Israeli politics for the past dozen years has been the attempt to reconcile extrication from territory with security. That is what Sharon thinks about all the time, as did his Labour predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

In the history of the West, such a narrative used to command fascination and respect. Many could apply it to their own people. British people whose convict cousins had built Australia out of their barren exile could understand; so could Americans, who had overcome hostile terrain and hostile inhabitants, and forged a mighty nation. So could any country formed in adversity, particularly, perhaps, a Protestant one - with its idea of divinely supported national destiny and its natural sympathy for the people first chosen by God. The sympathy was made stronger by the fact that the new state was robust in its legal and political institutions, free in its press and universities - a noisy democracy.

Anti-imperialists and the Left also found much to admire. They admired people whose pioneer spirit kept them equal, who often lived communally, who fled the persecution of old societies to build simpler, better ones. If you read Bernard Donoughue's diaries, just published, of his life as an adviser to Harold Wilson in the 1970s (a much better picture of what prime ministers are like than Sir Christopher Meyer's self-regarding effort), one difference between then and now that hits you hard is Donoughue's (and Wilson's) firm belief that the cause of Israel is the cause of people who wish to be free, and that its enemies are the old, repressive establishments.

As a boy, I loved this narrative.


Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2005 10:03 PM
Comments

Indeed, self-hatred has to be mighty strong to pervert a narrative as compelling as modern Israel's.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at November 25, 2005 11:06 PM

Yes, we share our heriage as people of the wagon train with Israel. Don't forget the Boers.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 26, 2005 9:18 AM
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