High Noon for the West

“We should be under no illusions: if Israel falls, the rest of the West will be next.”

Manchester Square

Future generations may look back on the summer of 2010 as the high noon of the West. Just now, the omens are mostly propitious. We have apparently weathered a serious economic crisis without the social and political chaos that once caused much of the world to embrace totalitarianism. Since 9/11, our worst fears have not been realised: terrorists have yet to obtain weapons of mass destruction. The world is not coming to an end, as the prophets of environmental doom foretold. All that has come to a (provisional) end is the gullibility of governments in dealing with green issues. Nor is it capitalism that collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. No, that was socialism.

Yet this summer may also prove to be the last interlude of calm before a war of annihilation is being unleashed against the Jewish people and against the state of Israel in the first instance. Whether this is allowed to happen will be the decisive test of the West. All the cardinal virtues of the West will be tested — ideals that originate in the ancient world, were augmented by the medieval world and adapted to the modern world: prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, faith, hope and charity. So far, none of these virtues has been much in evidence among the statesmen and women of the West. 

Was it prudent for President Obama and the European Union to reward Hamas for its intransigence with a large new package of aid? Did their failure to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons indicate fortitude? Where is justice in the unique penalisation of Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, in which the West is increasingly complicit? Temperance has been altogether absent from the debate, which all too often turns into a public lynching of Israel, spilling over into a wave of anti-Semitism across Europe and the Muslim world. Once seen as the West’s front line, Israel has seen its allies lose faith and hope in its future, while acting with a singular lack of charity in passing judgment on its struggle for survival.

There is room here for just a couple of examples. Take the case of Helen Thomas, Hearst columnist and doyenne of the White House press corps, who is untypical of the liberal establishment only in calling openly for the Jews of Israel to go “home” to Poland and Germany. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said. While dissociating himself from her remarks, Barack Obama praised her as “a real institution in Washington”. At the White House these days, there is only one taboo: don’t mention the Holocaust in the same breath as Iran. Yet we know that a second one is being prepared even as the victims are abandoned to their fate.

Or take Jewish history. This is the greatest story of national survival ever told, which is why some people pretend that it is fiction. Shlomo Sand, for example, has written a bestseller, The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso, 2009), which claims to debunk the “myth” of exile and return that is the foundation of the state of Israel. Sand dismisses the notion of a common ancestry for the Jews of the diaspora and modern Israel. Yet a recent article in the journal Nature (June 9, 2010), based on DNA samples from 69 diaspora Jewish communities, found a “remarkably tight subcluster” which “fits with the idea that most contemporary Jews have descended from ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant”. In other words, a common Jewish history is not an invention and nor is Israel’s right to exist.

This goes to the heart of the matter. Why should the West care what happens to Israel? Rome, Athens and Jerusalem are the three temple mounts where we recognise our Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian origins. The story of Western civilisation is unthinkable without the Jewish people, as the enemies of the West from Hitler and Stalin to bin Laden and Ahmadinejad have always understood. By denying the historical narrative of the Jewish people, by questioning their right to live in their own state, these enemies are undermining the entire edifice of our civilisation. Over the coming months, the West’s commitment to protect Israel will be tested, perhaps to destruction. But we should be under no illusions: if Israel falls, the rest of the West will be next.