Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Israel and Rape 

December 11, 2003

“The Return of Anti-Semitism,” headlines a cover story by Craig Horowitz in New York magazine. It’s what G.K. Chesterton used to call the Usual Article, one you feel you’ve read a hundred times before. Horowitz says the worldwide rage against the state of Israel is “a kind of politically correct anti-Semitism.”

But just when you’re tempted to dismiss it as standard whining, you run across this item: at a San Francisco rape crisis center, volunteers are asked, on an application form, if they are willing to “take action on other social justice struggles,” such as “supporting Palestinian liberation and taking a stance against Zionism. Can you commit to that?”

Well, maybe. But what on earth has rape in San Francisco got to do with the struggle in the Middle East? Are the city’s rapists Zionist agents?

Rational objections to Zionism are one thing. I agree that it causes more than its share of the world’s problems. But both its advocates and its enemies seem to lose all sense of proportion about it. Surely there are other injustices to be lamented in this sorry world. A few might be found in, say, Africa.

Granted, the state of Israel boasts a high concentration of annoying people. But we don’t have to look far for worse examples of bloody ethnocentrism. After crushing the Confederacy to vindicate the proposition that all men are created equal, the U.S. Government launched a westward campaign to “exterminate” — the word was freely used — the American Indian. War heroes like Generals Sherman and Sheridan led the way, under the witty slogan “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” The Israelis haven’t gone that far.

Singing “Rule, Britannia,” the English set out to civilize much of the world, killing as many “wogs” and “niggers” as it took to achieve civilization in backward lands. Tiny Belgium managed to kill millions in the Congo, largely uncommemorated. Other European powers did their part to spread enlightenment abroad, before commencing world wars at home.

[Breaker quote: Changing the rules]These are only sketchy reminders, not a comprehensive history. We might also glance at Arab, Mongol, and Japanese conquests. Not always pretty.

None of this excuses what the Israelis are doing, but they didn’t invent ethnocentrism. To live at all is to be, at least at first, self-centered. And it’s a pretty general human habit to feel that “we” are civilized and refined, while “they” are crude, backward, and savage and deserve anything “we” choose to mete out, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Is Ariel Sharon so different from Andrew Jackson? The Cherokees — those who are left — might have their own views on that. (I’d hesitate to ask a Cherokee to break a twenty.)

Men may believe firmly in Original Sin without quite appreciating that it applies to them as much as to their enemies. We all know the rules; applying them consistently is another matter.

And you really can’t blame the Zionists too much for feeling that the rules have been rather abruptly changed on them. Not so long ago, the United States and European countries were freely practicing the kind of nationalism, racialism, and imperialism (and there are suspicions that they haven’t entirely stopped) for which Israel is now being censured. Have we forgotten already?

By all means, let’s criticize Israel. But raw vilification isn’t criticism. Criticism is reasoned and measured. It is leery of emotionalism, hyperbole, and wild metaphor. Its essence is comparison and proportion. The true critic may be stinging, but he is at least sober. His words express something more than a sour mood. He keeps references to Satan to a reasonable minimum. (Personally, I try to bring Satan into the conversation only on very special occasions.)

One of the glories of the West is its universalism — its bone-deep conviction that the same standards apply to everyone. If you found yourself wearing a uniform and shooting little Jewish boys, I trust you’d ask yourself, “Wait a minute! How did it come to this?”

Well, some Israeli soldiers are asking themselves the same question. Fate has put them in the position of shooting little Arab boys, and they are recoiling from their assigned role. Every soul comes at last to the moment when it must retrace its steps. At that moment we owe it encouragement, not condemnation.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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