Empathizing with the underdog is a natural human instinct. When we see a little David facing off against a mighty Goliath, our hearts go out to the little guy. But what happens when Goliath pretends to be David and then accuses David of really being Goliath?
That is the situation that Israel finds itself in and it is also the topic of Joshua Muravchik’s new book, Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel.
Muravchik’s book looks at how the Arab Muslim countries swapped a hard military war for a soft political and cultural influence operation that combined murderous terrorism with economic boycotts and academic programming to convince the world that Israel was Goliath and they were little David.
It’s easy to spot the absurdity of the region’s intolerant and supremacist Sunni Muslim majority reinventing its identity as that of an oppressed people, but Muravchik also shows how this reinvention used the so-called “Palestinians” as a political vehicle for larger cultural goals. The current portrayal of Arab Muslims as an oppressed group stems in part from their association with the “Palestinian” cause.
“The Arabs, notwithstanding their regressive social and political practices, nor their recent alignment with the fascist powers, now, in the guise of the Palestinians, assumed a place among the forces of virtue and progress while the Israelis were consigned to the ranks of the villains and reactionaries,” Muravchik writes in Making David into Goliath.
Israel, as David, was able to leverage its limited manpower and resources in strategic military strikes against much bigger, but less centered opponents. Its opponents however learned to leverage the less demanding tools of soft power, such as the United Nations, to win soft power conflicts by demonizing Israel in as many international forums as possible.
War is a hard test of competence and courage. Influence operations in an international body are a matter of alliances. Academia, whose corruption Muravchik extensively chronicles in his chapter on Edward Said, specializes in the ability to infinitely invert ideas and distort their meanings.
David could beat Goliath with a slingshot, but he couldn’t yell louder or lie better than Goliath.
Against terrorism, the virtues of a free nation become its weakness. A free nation has dissenters who sympathize with terrorists. Terrorists however massacre dissenters. Israel’s Fifth Column generates much of the propaganda against it, but there is no corresponding movement on the other side because Hamas and the PLO are ruthlessly totalitarian in practice and purpose.
A nation can put aside its differences and unite in wartime. Netanyahu’s approval ratings show that Israelis are still capable of getting behind a clearly just and necessary war. But terrorism is permanent warfare and no free society can set aside all its differences and unite permanently. The United States could not do it for very long after September 11. Temporary crisis unity also comes apart in Israel.
In the West, where sympathy for Israel, especially among the political classes, was even weaker, the wave of Islamic terrorism took it apart that much more readily. Few Western governments wanted to be drawn into an international conflict by acts of terrorism on their own soil or to brave oil boycotts.
For Muravchik the turning point came when the Six Day War demonstrated the limits of Pan-Arabist efforts to smash Israel through pure force. Israel’s victory created a disproportionate sense of its power and the military defeats of clients of the USSR led to a strategic shift toward soft power and terrorism.
The world’s historical “Clock” for Israel has been set to right after 1967. The initial perceptions of its aftermath; Israel’s military superiority, the “oppressed” Palestinians who suddenly came into being after coming out of the rule of Egypt and Jordan, and the urgent need for a negotiated solution, have been frozen in time as the default worldview with little regard for what came before or after.
By recapturing Gaza and the West Bank, Israel had hoped to put an end to terrorism and violence by putting the territories under its control. But instead the sponsors of the PLO had the responsibility for the terrorism lifted off their shoulders and the conflict increasingly came to be seen in terms of those territories, even though the conflict had long predated the Six Day War.
Muravchik deftly handles these topics with extensive looks at everything from the Goldstone Report to the academic work of Edward Said for a better understanding of the larger shift that took place in a variety of forums and arenas. He discusses everything from the influence of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations to the impact of radical theology on the World Council of Churches and the work of domestic anti-Israel groups such as B’Tselem.
At times he overstates how popular Israel was. The Jewish State was never more than a brief stopover on the way to winning over Arab Muslim support for everyone from the British Empire to the International Left. It wasn’t so much that they turned on Israel, as their preference was for a powerful Goliath over an isolated David, even if they then insisted on pretending that Goliath was really David.
American liberals hung on longer than many others, but as liberalism was cannibalized by the left, it adopted its ideological critiques of Israel as colonialist and terrorism as a means of liberation. Liberals did not so much abandon Israel as they abandoned liberalism and adopted the radical politics that they were being fed by formerly mainstream outlets of liberal thought such as NPR and the New York Times.
The concerns of Israeli and pro-Israel Jews over the world standing of the Jewish State are real, but they are also symptoms of insecurity. Zionism and Israel were never all that popular with elites, especially those of the left. Western Jews correctly view anti-Israel sentiment as a reflection of the antipathy toward them, but that is an ancient reality that short memories after the Holocaust made short work of.
This insecurity leads some Jews to loudly broadcast anti-Israel sentiments in the hope of escaping anti-Semitism, but that too is a futile and destructive ambition.
David, for all that he was the underdog, did not set out to be liked. He set out to win. He took an insanely dangerous risk with faith that a Higher Power would help him accomplish the impossible. Israel came closest to that in the Six Day War. It is not Goliath, but it has also forgotten how to be David.
People are more likely to rally behind those with conviction in their own righteousness. The Muslim Goliath has carried off his imitation of David through the degree of his conviction. Israel and its defenders have strived for reasonableness over conviction, trying to prove their humanitarian credentials through a willingness to see both sides.
But as the conflict has become a war of ideas, it has become clear that wars of ideas are no more won by those who see both sides than wars of force are won by those who fight on both sides.
Article printed from FrontPage Magazine: http://www.frontpagemag.com
URL to article: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/when-goliath-pretends-to-be-david-1/