Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Roots of European anti-Zionism, desire to forget the Holocaust

I'm posting, in its entirety, an important piece by Melanie Phillips. Important because it explores the roots of the Six Day War and resulting occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and doubly important because it explores the psychological roots of European anti-Zionism: the desire to forget or absolve the Holocaust.

It has been my gut feeling that Europeans blame the victims of the Holocaust for much the same reasons that Americans vilified Indians and Blacks: the imperative to erase their sense of collective guilt for their nations' racial atrocities. I would love to know exactly what Yossi Klein Halevi said at this conference.

Here's Melanie Phillips' piece:

Melanie Phillips’s Diary » The legacy of the Six-Day War

I attended an excellent seminar yesterday in Jerusalem, run by the estimable Shalem Centre, on the legacy of the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arabs, the 40th anniversary of which falls next week. Michael Oren, a notable historian of that war who has been mining the treasure trove of recently de-classified documents about it, related how, during the period leading up to June 1967 when attacks upon Israel were mounting, the tension in Israel became unbearable as people feared a second holocaust at the hands of the Arab states who were clearly preparing for all-out war. De-classified documents have shown that Egypt, Jordan and Syria were planning to cut Israel in half; Jordan was planning to take out whole populations from Israeli towns and shoot them. Plans for the destruction of Israel had been laid to the smallest detail.

Israel, however, planned for no more than a 48-hour surgical strike, explicitly resolving not to enter Gaza or the West Bank. What Israel had not expected was that King Hussein of Jordan, who had hitherto been signalling covertly that he had no hostile intent, would launch a serious attack, but Egypt told him falsely, after Israel had destroyed its entire air force on the ground in the space of one hour, that Egypt was on course for victory. So Jordan started firing on Israel from the West Bank, and Israel was accordingly sucked in, as it was into Gaza after attacks were launched from there.

On June 16 1967 Israel offered to give back these territories to Jordan and Egypt in exchange for peace. It even convened a meeting of 18 notable Arabs from the West Bank to discuss whether a Palestinian state could be established there. They all said they would indeed like to have such a state – but if they signed any such agreement with Israel, radicals such as Yasser Arafat would kill them.

I look forward to this history being provided to the public by the British media over the next few days, particularly by the BBC.

There were two other notable contributions to the seminar. Martin Kramer considered the common argument that the 1967 war and subsequent ‘occupation’ led to the emergence of Islamist extremism and al Qaeda. The facts, he said, did not fit this thesis. For a start, the one country in the Middle East where Islamism had seized power since 1967 was Iran, which had played no part in that war. 1979, the year the ayatollahs came to power, was the landmark year for the emergence of Islamism; and the historical grievance behind that Iranian revolution was the return of the Shah. Israel was irrelevant. This meant that the key to countering Islamist fundamentalism was not the Israel/Arab peace process, but ‘rolling back the Iranian revolution’ – in other words, regime change in Iran.

In the most poignant and indeed tragic analysis of all, Yossi Klein Halevi suggested that the Six-Day War had brought to light a continuing ambivalence in the attitude to power of the Jewish people themselves. The weeks before that war, when attacks upon Israel and the threat of war were mounting – the ‘waiting period’—reawakened the primal Jewish fear both of a second holocaust and that the Jews would once again be isolated as the world stood by and watched it happen. The principle established by the Six Day War would trigger pre-emptive action by Israel. The consequence of its victory, however, was that Jews felt able for the first time to confront the Holocaust and from that date it became central to the identity of Jews in the diaspora. The other side of the coin was that the same victory enabled the non-Jewish world to slough off its own responsibility for the Holocaust and in turn for the survival of the Jewish people. While Jews saw the Six Day War as a narrow escape from genocide, the non-Jewish world only saw the Jews victorious over another people.

And this division was carried through into the Jewish people themselves. Those on the left (roughly speaking) saw only the victory and concluded therefore that Israel could now take risks with its security in order to achieve peace with the Arabs. Those on the right saw that Israel was the only country in the world marked out for extermination and concluded therefore that taking risks for peace was suicidal. The Jews have thus internalised the difference between May 1967, with its terror of annihilation, and June 1967, with its relief at the astounding victory. And the difference between these two months has divided them as a people. While the Six Day War made Israel the focus of their identity for many diaspora Jews and ignited their determination that ‘never again’ would they be slow to defend their own people against annihilation, for many others it turned them against it. For at the very moment that the left embraced ‘victim culture’ as their supreme cause, Israel ceased in their eyes to be David and turned instead into Goliath. For so long, Jews had been despised as cowards. Now they were to be despised as aggressors. As Halevi concluded: ‘The 1967 war made some Jews feel safe enough to long for powerlessness’.

The result is that the Jewish people today is living through a seismic internal rupture. The terrible conclusion from such an analysis is that it is only disaster and annihilation that will unite it. Victory and power divide and threaten to destroy it; there can be unity only in catastrophe. Such a pathological ‘Catch-22’, such an each-way bet on self-destruction, cannot be tolerated. It has to be fought. The Jewish people has to bring these two halves of its psyche together. It has to learn to acknowledge the reality of the unique threat to its existence and to accept that virtue does not reside in powerlessness. To believe that it does is to continue to be imprisoned in a psychic ghetto. Israel was established to say never again’ to precisely that mentality. The dreadful internal war that is currently engulfing diaspora Jews, the legacy of those six days in June 1967, shows that for too many that elementary lesson – the denial of which is causing so many once again to sleepwalk towards mass destruction — still has to be learned.

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