When Christians Blame Israel
Malcolm Muggeridge once observed that modern life is so absurd that satire is no longer possible. "There is nothing you can imagine," he said, "that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well-known."
He was right. Having recently written Insecurity, a satire on political correctness run amok in the military and in government, I found that it was not easy to invent situations that were any more absurd than the ones being reported with a straight face in the daily news. For example, in an early draft of the book, my fictional president and his advisor, General Johnson, decide that they must take military action against the country of West Frackistan. But, of course, it has to be done in the proper way:
PRESIDENT PRINCE: Will you make sure that the enemy is properly notified of the dates and times and targets we plan to strike?
GENERAL JOHNSON: Absolutely. It'll be the usual sixty-day advance notice, plus a fifteen-day grace period.
PRESIDENT PRINCE: And will we supply the Frackistani military with sufficient anti-aircraft batteries to defend against our air strikes?
GENERAL JOHNSON: That's only fair, sir.
I decided to take that section out. At the time (about six months ago), it seemed a bit too absurd, even for a satire. Since then, however, reality has overtaken satire, knocked it to the ground, and run well ahead.
Take the Israel-Gaza war. The Israeli military actually did give advance notice to its Hamas opponents of the targets it planned to hit and the times of attack -- although nothing so generous as sixty days' notice. That's highly unusual behavior in times of war. Still, given the circumstances and the desire to spare civilian lives, I would hesitate to call it absurd.
On the other hand, consider this headline from the Washington Times: "U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas." That's right. Navi Pillay, the chairwoman of the U.N. Human Rights Council, said the Israelis may have committed a war crime by not sharing its Iron Dome missile defense system with the "governing authority" of Gaza. In other words, Israel must make sure that its enemy has every advantage that it has.
As General Johnson might say, "That's only fair." In retrospect, I could have safely kept in the bit about lending the Frackistanis enough anti-aircraft batteries to shoot down our own missiles.
The U.N. chairperson's complaint betrays an almost kindergarten-level understanding of war -- as though war is like a game of golf in which the poorer players are given a higher handicap to even things out. This naïve view of warfare is now fairly widespread among the chattering class. Take a recent comment by Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who, along with numerous other Catholic clergy, had little to say about the thousands of rockets fired into Israel over the years, but was suddenly roused to speak out when Israel fired back. In an interview with Fides Agency, Patriarch Twal lamented the "sacrificial victims" of Gaza and more or less blamed Israel for the violence -- for having turned Gaza into "a factory of desperate people, designed to easily turn into extremists..." The worst thing, declared the Patriarch, is the blockade:
Even the tunnels built in Gaza are a product of the embargo in their own way: if you put an end to this siege, if you open up the streets and allow freedom of movement of people and goods, if you allow free fishing in the sea in front of Gaza, then everything will be able to move on the surface and no one will need to dig underground tunnels to pass.
This, of course, is an echo of one of the main Hamas talking points, but, unlike the cynically calculating Hamas leadership, the Patriarch actually seems to believe it. Apparently he thinks that the underground passages are there to bring in bread, fish, and other daily needs rather than rockets, ammunition, and AK-47s.
If that's so, then why have the Egyptians imposed a similar blockade on Gaza's southern border? Why do more than thirty of the tunnels cross under the Israeli border and terminate in the vicinity of Israeli communities? Why were those tunnels stocked with handcuffs, syringes, and tranquilizers? Why were tons of high explosives positioned under Israeli kindergartens? It takes a special kind of naïveté to believe that those tunnels were built for the purpose of importing clothing and candy bars.
Like Twal, numerous other Christian leaders and organizations have made the blockade (which does, in fact, allow the passage of everyday necessities) the main plank in their anti-Israel platform. Lift the embargo, they say, and all will be well. End the occupation and there will be permanent peace. It would be an interesting experiment, but one that the Israelis and Egyptians are not likely to chance. After all, the Israelis did gamble on disengaging from the Gaza Strip nine years ago, and they immediately found themselves targeted by Hamas rockets in gratitude.
Unlike the Egyptians and the Israelis, the Christian critics of the blockade seem unfamiliar with the facts on the ground and with the even more revealing facts under the ground. If they are familiar with the situation, they seem determined not to let the facts get in the way of their theories about creating peace. And that is the nub of the matter. They live mentally in a fantasy world unrelated to the real world and its sometimes severe limitations.
Although the critics of Israel don't want to think about what's in the tunnels, they suffer, nonetheless, from a bad case of tunnel vision. G.K. Chesterton observed that the lunatic is not someone who has lost his reason but, rather, someone who has lost everything except his reason -- someone, in short, who has lost all sense of perspective, context, and proportion. With their narrow, obsessive focus on the supposed sins of Israel, the selective moralizers of the world are missing the larger picture.
Let's see: Muslims are attacking non-Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Libya, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, and Thailand. There are no Jews to speak of in these places. So you can't blame the violence on them. Given the propensity of Muslims to attack their neighbors, what are the chances that in the one place on earth where a Jewish government and an Islamist government are in conflict, it's the Jews who are largely at fault?
And how about the Muslim attacks on Jews in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, England, Australia, and elsewhere in the Western world? The selective moral outrage at Israel begins to wear a little thin when looked at in a larger perspective.
Meanwhile, Christians and other minorities are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands across the Muslim world. If Western Christians are so concerned with the deaths of innocent women and children, why are they so much more concerned with dead Gazans than with dead Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria?
We hear a lot about Israel's disproportionate response to Hamas attacks, but it is the Western scolds of Israel who have lost all sense of proportion. With their gaze narrowly focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they are largely blind to a looming conflict of much greater proportions.