January 16, 2009

Ilana, Israel, and the Paleos

My friend Ilana Mercer has just posted a provocative essay on VDARE, which I would like to respond to. Ilana asks the timely question why the European Right has produced outspoken defenders of the Israeli government in its confrontation with Hamas, while in the U.S. by contrast the paleos have usually sided with the Palestinians. One should qualify this judgment, by pointing out that for several years until quite recently the Front National in France and the FPO in Austria leaned decidedly toward the Palestinians. Moreover, the support that Nick Griffin and his British National Party have given the Israelis is rather lukewarm and entirely predicated on the recognition that Muslims are a danger to Griffin?s own nation. Griffin goes out of his way to stress the British interest that is at stake and to play down his concern with Israel or any other state in the Middle East.

In Germany, much of the antinational Left is passionately pro-Israeli, on the goofy, antifascist grounds that by rallying to Israel, one could do more harm to a German national identity than by backing the Palestinians. (Germans, for those who may not have noticed, are obsessive masochists.) Meanwhile the nationalist Right in Germany, to the extent one still exists, has remained neutral in the current Middle Eastern conflict. Perhaps this Right, typified by the Junge Freiheit editorial board, is oscillating between being peeved over the anti-German statements coming from Jewish organizations and its predictable distaste for the Muslims now colonizing Europe.

There are also paleos who do not share the anti-Israeli stand that Ilana associates with the real American Right. I could mention my own case and could think of other paleos, beside Ilana, who back Israel, if one gave me enough time. But her general observation is correct. The European Right is generally more inclined toward the Israelis than are the American paleos, and the quotations taken from the Dutch Freedom Party, the Vlaams Belang, and other European rightist parties that Ilana offers could be multiplied tenfold.

One possible reason for this transatlantic split is that the American Right is more sensitive than its European counterpart to the fact that Jews are typically on the left on social and political issues. In Europe Jewish organizations that support Israel have also typically backed Muslim immigration into Europe, and they have added insult to injury by jabbering about ?Christian anti-Semitism? when the Muslim immigrants or their offspring start attacking Jews on the streets. In Australia Jewish organizations have been out in front demonstrating and signing petitions with Muslims to bar the anti-immigrationist, anti-Muslim Griffin from speaking down under. Jewish Zionists in the Diaspora have usually believed that while Christians are expected to back Israel to the hilt, Jews should be encouraged to work with Muslims and other non-Christians to secularize the culture and to bring multiculturalism to the host country. The Anti-Defamation League exemplifies these attitudes. To her credit, Ilana makes no attempt to justify this double standard.

But there are two other critical variables that distinguish our situation from the European. Unlike Western and Central Europeans, we?ve not had to face large-scale Muslim immigration, bringing in its wake anti-Christian Muslims and Islamic Fundamentalists. Although there has been an invasion from across our Southern border, that?s a different can of worms. Unlike the Europeans and Israelis, we are not dealing with a large Muslim presence already inside our borders. Moreover, unlike Europeans we are not looking at entire sections of our country being occupied by Muslims. Such things are happening across the ocean, while multicultural governments are abetting this demographic trend and often punishing the indigenous Europeans who call attention to their situation.

Another variable concerns the primary enemies of the European and American Rights. In Western Europe there are neoconservative outposts, and as Richard showed in a recent spoof on Melanie Phillips, there are already English neoconservatives wishing to defend the West as an ?abstract construct? or global democratic enterprise, by pledging undying support to the Israeli military. But such types are also less influential in Europe than they are in this country; and they are certainly not the main enemy that the populist, nationalist Right in Europe is confronting. In Europe the Right can take on the multicultural Left directly, without the problem of a second Left standing together with the rest of the Left against a more genuine Right. It has been the neoconservatives? success in marginalizing the Right that distinguishes our politics from that of Belgium or Switzerland. It also explains the virulent hostility toward Israel that now characterizes elements of the humiliated American Old Right.

Like Ilana, I regret this hostility; and like her, I think it is being targeted at a country that is fighting for its survival and whose geopolitical options have been exaggerated by its critics. Hamas is committed to the eradication of the ?Zionist entity? and to expelling or killing its present Jewish population. Although wrongs were committed by all sides during the formation of the Israeli state, including the brutal persecution of Jewish populations in Arab countries as well as the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, we have to live in the present. The Israelis are trying to save their necks against implacable enemies, who from all indications have no desire to negotiate or strike bargains with them. This seems to be the case, despite the fact that those who have done enormous harm to me and my friends say exactly the same thing.

The question is whether I would reason this way about Israel absent certain factors: for example, if I had no Jewish blood, if members of my family had not fled Hitler and gone to Israel, and if my son-in-law were not an Israeli military officer. The answer is probably not. In this other reality I would be focusing during the present conflict on Israel?s most boisterous advocates, including the neocons? underlings at NR and The Weekly Standard. I would also be noticing all the others who run around sliming any critic of Israel as an anti-Semite or Holocaust-denier. Like Taki and Pat Buchanan, I would be sick of such defamers and their manipulation of the American Right. And such passions might affect my judgment about Israel.

While it may be grossly unfair that the Israelis should be caught in the crossfire, it is also inescapable. The man who is likely to become Israel?s next premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a neoconservative mouthpiece. Netanyahu goes all over Creation making speeches about the need for global democracy and about how governments he and his neoconservative friends don?t like are ?undemocratic? and therefore ?illegitimate.? The Jerusalem Post, which is the largest English-speaking newspaper in Israel, is neoconservative from cover to cover. The same is true for the French edition that is now available on Israeli newsstands. Although most Israelis wouldn?t know a neoconservative from a Dodo Bird, the image of their country that we have in the U.S. is filtered through neocon interpreters.

Why should American paleoconservatives see Israel?s battle sympathetically? It would be nice if they did, but the fact that they don?t is entirely understandable. As a point of information, the older generation of paleos was not always against Israel. Indeed one of the most outspoken critics of Israel, Pat Buchanan, spent years as a fervent advocate of the Israeli side. It was only when he noticed Zionist journalists dumping on the Catholic Church and trying to implicate it in the Holocaust that Pat moved in the opposite direction. One might ask, ?Why should the Israelis suffer for the idiocy of their cheering gallery?? In an ideal world perhaps they would not, but in the world we inhabit countries do get held accountable for those who champion their cause.

Nor does it really matter that some of the advocates of the Palestinians are every bit as repugnant as those on the other side. These are not the people whom the paleos have been fighting for decades on a wide range of issues. Palestinian advocates may be tedious airheads but they don?t impact the lives of paleoconservatives or paleolibertarians in any significant ways. And when the advocates for the Palestinians show pictures of impoverished people huddled together in refugee camps, they are bound to elicit sympathy, no matter who fired the first missile where.

In conclusion, I would underline that I am not writing a refutation of Ilana?s spirited polemic. The questions she provokes are important enough so as to warrant a detailed answer, which is what I?ve attempted to provide.

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