Tom Fleming is one of the wisest men I know, so it is always a pleasure to speak to him. The last time I spoke to the editor of Chronicles, I asked him to explain something that had long troubled me. Why have otherwise sound men such as Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran become cheerleaders for the Palestinians? Isn’t this an example of the sentimental liberalism they decry in others?
Tom replied that in his opinion Buchanan and Sobran had come to their position as a result of the gross abuse they had suffered at the hands of the neoconservatives. They had been Zionists, but their Zionism hadn’t been enough for Pope Norman Podhoretz and cat’s-paws like Bill Buckley. As a result, they had become anti-Zionists.
It is always a terrible temptation to turn against Israel because of the excesses—at home and abroad, especially abroad—of its devotees. I can claim some small empathy with Buchanan and Sobran on this point. Two years ago, something I wrote came to the hostile attention of one of Israel’s most influential boosters in Canada. Despite a lifetime of philo-Semitism, despite a lifetime of Zionism, even unto being supportive of the Likud party, I found myself accused of anti-Semitism.
This tumler moved heaven and earth to destroy me and almost succeeded. With friends like that, I thought… But this temptation should be resisted. My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend, even if this little incident left me enraged and with fewer friends than I’d enjoyed previously.
“I know your opinion on Israel,” Jason Kenney (not the tumler) said to me in his superior way when I ran into him at the Canadian Alliance convention in Edmonton in April. “No. You don’t,” I was about to reply, but he had already bustled off.
This is my opinion on Israel, as expressed in Eclectica, March 5, 2001:
The phrase “peace process” has become a kind of verbal antidepressant, depriving those who say or hear it of higher brain functions. The logical conclusion of the peace process is the extermination of the State of Israel. Many secretly desire this; some are Arabists or anti-Semites; others are Orthodox Jews who believe a Jewish state is blasphemous. But they should be honest enough to speak openly.
My position is nearly identical to Paul Gottfried’s, so I am in good company. Prof Gottfried is one of America’s most original thinkers, and in a more just world he would be lionized. In a November 18 piece written for the Hudson Institute (thanks to Ilana Mercer for the link), he complains:
It seems to me apparent that at least some of my soulmates have gone over the top in foreign policy. Their views on the Middle East have become over-determined by their opposition to the neoconservatives.
It is one thing to criticize, as I myself have done ad libitum, the dubious statements that keep popping up on National Review Online (NRO): for instance, that Arab leaders are recent reincarnations of interwar European fascists; that international peace requires that the United States overthrow all Middle Eastern governments, except for that of Israel, and set up forced instruction in the occupied countries in global democracy; that anti-Israeli Islamicist violence in Europe is really attributable to Christian anti-Semitism (only about half the neocons seem to believe this); and that all peoples can be turned into democrats, because we succeeded in converting the particularly recalcitrant Germans after World War II. (For those who would like to learn why these assertions make little sense, I shall gladly email essays in which I have dealt with them.)
But it is another matter to deny reasonable assumptions simply because the neocons believe them.
Prof Gottfried admires Ariel Sharon, not least because he “is utterly free of ideological cant.” I can’t help but agree. Sharon is a “nasty piece of work,” as I have written, but Israel is fighting for its very survival, and he is just the man for the job. The Labour Party is the party of Israeli suicide.
Support for Israel shouldn’t mean dancing to Israel’s tune in foreign policy, however. It is not my place to lecture the Israelis about their best interests. And they don’t need my help in that department. I am not a citizen of the United States, so I’ll refrain as well from lecturing the Americans. Yet I retain my love of America, despite what some think, and it hardly seems in America’s interest to invade Iraq. Here I part company with Gottfried:
By now it is apparent that Saddam Hussein is a vicious, sadistic lunatic who has been aggressive toward his neighbours, stockpiles highly destructive weapons, and has threatened repeatedly to unleash missiles on the “Zionist entity.” Although the extent of his involvement with al Qaeda has yet to be fully ascertained, we do know that he has pay rolled Arab terrorists for years. It is consequently in the American interest to work toward a regime change in Iraq—or at the very least either force Saddam to comply fully with United Nations inspections or surgically remove his threatening weapons system. On the basis of what the president has said, this seems to be his intention—which is not the same as the stated view of writers Jonah Goldberg, Michael Ledeen, and others who want to reconstruct the Islamic Middle East. It is therefore unfair to do what some paleos now routinely do, which is to equate Bush’s firm resolve not to let the Iraqi regime go back to business as usual with the revolutionary illusions of some misnamed American conservatives.
I remain convinced that an invasion of Iraq, regardless of its outcome, will lead to a ferocious anti-Israel backlash in America and elsewhere, but I could be wrong.
For better or worse, America is Israel’s military and financial guarantor. Nevertheless, Israel’s interests are not America’s interests—and they are certainly not Canada’s, regardless of neocon howls to the contrary. Israel is not even Canada’s ally, and no amount of posturing from the National Post can change that. On at least two occasions, Mossad agents have pretended to be Canadians. Such behaviour obviously places Canadians in the Middle East at great risk, as Canada recognized in 1997 when it recalled its ambassador. The Israelis swore they wouldn’t do it again, but the Akram Zatmeh affair suggests that old habits die hard. And the Israeli “art students” scandal raises troubling questions, to say the least.
But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Israel acts consistently on the basis of what is good for Israel; it pays no heed to such fatuous abstractions as “the international community.” This is wholly admirable and exceedingly rare among Western countries—which increasingly regard national suicide as a duty. My only wish is that Canada was as self-centred.
3.56 a.m., November 24, 2002