The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Defend Israel, defend the white man

Among the many reasons for staunch Western support for the Zionist project in Palestine — from the Balfour Declaration to today's contortions to defend the indefensible in Gaza and elsewhere — is a pretty basic racism. The Zionists, after all, were mostly Europeans, and even as second-class Europeans, they ranked a notch or two above the natives of Palestine. This has long been an implicit part of the Western posture towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Middle East in general.

In the last decade or two, this has become more explicit, with rallies to Israel's defense being made for the sake of Western civilization against the Mahommedan hordes and much talk about "Judeo-Christian" values among the conservative pro-Israel community, particularly in America. As in for instance in this latest project by a smattering of European right-wingers called the Friends of Israel Initiative, in which the first point is:

1. Israel is a Western country. With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations. 

Normal Western countries don't have religious laws and don't restrict immigration to a single religion. Nor are they occupiers of other people's lands and conduct wars of collective punishment with their immediate neighbors. But they care about this point so much they basically repeat in point four:

4. Israel is on our side. With this in mind, we must be clear in recognizing that Israel’s fight is our fight. Western democracy will not prevail unless we recognize and assume the Judeo-Christian cultural and moral heritage which first gave rise to those institutions and the values which initially inspired them, and strengthen them. The assault on Israel is itself an assault on Judeo-Christian values. Israel stands on the front line, but we are next in line. If Israel’s right to self defense is questioned in the Middle East, our right to self-defense will be questioned when fighting similar terrorist enemies in Afghanistan, and at home. If principles of human rights and universal jurisdiction are to be turned into weapons against Israeli democracy, what makes us so sure they will not one day be used against European and North American democracy? Israel’s future is our fate. 

Being partly of European background, I have to say I don't see much that's Judeo-Christian in European values. Christian, yes, definitely, although today there are as much if not more secular and even anti-religious values. But the idea that the West has always cherished "Judeo-Christian" values is rather odd, considering it persistently practiced anti-Semitism in various forms for hundreds of years. There was no deep-rooted respect for Jews or their values in Europe aside from the Christian interest in the Old Testament — history since the Inquisition makes that pretty clear. This new trope of Western conservatism is a recent invention.

Today's Europe, despite the minaret-banning and some religious revival in the Eastern countries, has at its core values Enlightenment ideals and their postmodern extension in the Frankfurt School and elsewhere. It is an identity in which universal human rights is a core value (even if the reality in Europe is obviously still far from that). Ultimately — and we've seen this trend grow since the end of the Cold War — European values are at odds with a theologically grounded, ethnically-based colonial state. 

And by the way: one of the signatories, David Trimble, was appointed by Israel as one of the two foreigners in the commission to investigate the Freedom Flotilla massacre. Enough said.