On the Existential Threat to Israel

I recently read two compelling pieces of work describing what their authors characterize as existential threats to the State of Israel. The first was an article inthe May 2009 issue of Commentary magazine by Michael Oren entitled ‘Seven Existential Threats.’ The second was the book by Aaron Klein published this year with the shocking title The Late Great State of Israel. Michael Oren is a well-known historian who was recently appointed Israeli ambassador to the United States; Aaron Klein is an intrepid journalist who has broken many major stories on the Middle East in the last decade. Two serious men in a position to know. Thus when both, in dead earnest, lay out highly plausible, even probable, scenarios fort he purposeful and imminent destruction of the 61-year-old Jewish State, it is impossible not to be startled.

But before I go any further, dear reader, please stop and contemplate the enormity and barbarity of the deed these authors have forecast — the purposeful and imminent destruction of the State of Israel. There is no other nation on Earth whose existence is so threatened. Not moral monstrosities like North Korea, Burma or Zimbabwe; not intensely dysfunctional countries like Somalia; not the recently invaded Georgia, nor the hopelessly poverty-stricken(Democratic Republic of the) Congo; not even the criminal banana republic that lies 90 miles off our southern shore. Only Israel!

Genocidal maniacs in nearby countries promise that not only will the Jewish State perish at their hands, but its five-plus million Jews will be slaughtered, scattered and/or reduced to vassal status. Moreover, the peoples of the world barely utter a peep in opposition tot his deranged intention. And even worse, there is evidence that a not insignificant portion of the people of Israel do not take the threat all that seriously . . . and too many of their leaders pursue policies that actually aid and abet the madmen who chase their ghoulish goal.

Tiny Israel, comprising a land mass in size no more than 0.0625% of that of the Arab world and 0.005% of the Muslim world, and totaling in population roughly 0.03% of the Arab world and again 0.005% of the world’s Muslims, this tiny Israel represents a cancerous growth to the Arabs and Muslims that must be excised. Israel, whose people have made the desert bloom, revived an ancient language, established world class educational institutions, pioneered breakthroughs in science and engineering, created art, music, theatre and literature that rival per capita the output of any nation in the world, developed agricultural techniques that have inspired mankind, and who have established and maintained a representative democracy under the rule of law unequaled by any Arab or Muslim neighbor — all while under a constant threat of annihilation from its birth; this country and its people, under an obscene death sentence, are not important enough for Western Civilization to come to their defense.

The cowards in Europe are more interested in oil and playing nice with the Muslim world. Israel’s presence in the Middle East interferes with those objectives. And while the Europeans acknowledge that they perpetrated some nasty business on the Jewish people some 65-70 years ago, well, Europe also considers the debt incurred by that business to be paid off and now it is time to move on. Even the new administration in the United States shows signs of ‘having had it with Israeli intransigence’ and is tilting toward policies that play into the hands of those bent on Israel’s destruction.

In this article I will review the evidence presented by Mssrs. Oren and Klein and then I will offer a broader theory that incorporates the thinking of both gentlemen.

Oren’s seven existential threats are, in the order he presents them: The Loss of Jerusalem, The Arab Demographic Threat, Deligitimization, Terrorism, A Nuclear-Armed Iran, The Hemorrhaging of Sovereignty and Corruption. Anyone who is paying even the slightest attention to Israeli affairs in recent years will know immediately what Oren means by the second, third, fourth and fifth threats. So I shan’t elaborate on them. But let us be clear on his meaning for the other three. 

In ‘the Loss of Jerusalem,’ Oren identifies the usurper as the city’s non-Zionist population. He points out that the combination ofArab residents plus Haredim, that is, the so-called ultra-Orthodox, who reside in Jerusalem but arguably are opposed to the existence of a Jewish State in pre-messianic times, now constitutes a majority of the city’s population. The dwindling number of secular Jews in the city has translated into a diminishing tax base, declining industry, fewer professionals and a hollowing out of the city’s cultural life that strips it of any ability to attract the country’s youth to visit, much less live there. Oren asserts that ‘the preservation of Jerusalem as the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish state is vital to Israel’s existence . . . The city represents the raison d’etre of the Jewish state, and without it Israel would be merely another miniature Mediterranean enclave not worth living in, much less defending.’

With the term ‘Hemorrhaging of Sovereignty,’ Oren highlights the fact that Israel is losing effective control over large portions of its land mass and population. Once again, he identifies the growing Arab and Haredi communities, more specifically, the regions in whicht hey live as increasingly outside the normal legal jurisdictions of the Jewish Sate. In a parallel vein, where else in the world would you find a country with a legislature that contains a significant percentage of members devoted to the dissolution of the State?

Finally, there is the matter of corruption. Certainly in recent times, Israel has been afflicted by an unusually large outbreak of corruption among its leaders — a former President, a former Prime Minister and too many others. Oren claims that this is the most severe threat that Israel faces. Here I do not agree with him. Sadly, pervasive corruption at high levels is endemic around the world. Unlike its other threats, there is nothing singular to Israel about this one.

Klein does not compile in his book a list of threats like Oren does. Rather he presents a sweeping portrait, in much greater depth than Oren’s magazine piece, of a country that is losing (or has already lost) its soul. Building around a description of approximately a dozen calamities that have befallen Israel (almost all self-inflicted), he paints a picture of a weak and vacillating leadership, a naive and borderline subversive media, a population too fixated on its own material well-being to focus clearly on the external and internal threats to the State, friends (US and Europe) who do more harm thangood and a host of hostile neighbors who are determined to bring an end to the Jewish State — soon!

The calamities are well-known to any follower of the Israeli scene; they include: the ill-advised unilateral retreat from south Lebanon, which has only led to rocket attacks on Israeli territory and an ineffective Israeli incursion that failed to achieve any meaningful objective; the equally ill-advised retreat from Gaza, with the same consequences; the unnecessary abandonment of the Temple Mount to Arab authority; the surrender and ultimate destruction of Joseph’s Tomb; foolish attempts to engage the Syrians in negotiations, including offers to abandon the Golan Heights — a military mistake of such enormous import that only suicide can be the conscious motive; allowing the illegal construction of tens of thousands of Arab domiciles while severely restricting the development of Jewish neighborhoods on the so-called West Bank; a reluctance to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, which could haunt Israel not just by giving Iran a capability to strike Israel with nuclear-armed missiles, but could also put WMD inthe hands of Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza; not dismantling the UN-administered ‘refugee camps’ in areas under Israel’s control; toying with the idea of retreat from (areas of) the West Bank, ignoring the fact that Hamas will take over those areas exactly as they did in Gaza and whence rockets will rain down on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; and finally, dancing with the duplicitous Palestinian Authority, which is just as determined to bring about Israel’s destruction as is Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran.

One striking feature that is common to both works: while the fact that many threats to Israel originate externally is not minimized, both authors raise the notion that much of the danger is due to cowardice and stupidity on the part of Israel’s political and cultural leaders. Klein drives the point home forcefully, Oren more obliquely.

I concur with these distinguished gentlemen that the threats to Israel are multiple, real, profoundly serious and if not confronted and dealt with, they could signal the death knell of the Jewish State. But I also believe that most if not all of the threats can be subsumed under three mega-trends that encompass them, and which pose a mortal danger to more than just tiny, beleaguered Israel. Those trends are:

1. A worldwide resurgence of Islam, much of it in a radical and deadly mode;

2. A worldwide resurgence of virulent Anti-Semitism, much of it cloaked as anti-Zionism, but in reality nothing more thanold-fashioned Jew hatred;

3. The steep decline within Western Civilization of self-esteem.

It is easy to fit many of the threats to Israel outlined by Oren and Klein under the umbrella provided by the first two trends. It is perhaps less clear in the case of the third. By that trend I of course mean the declining belief by the peoples of Europe and North America that the fundamental political, cultural, religious and social principles, which undergird the advanced civilization they constructed and maintained during the last half millennium, have any validity any longer. No civilization, lacking faith in its own bedrock principles, legends, stories, religions and history can long endure. Witness the demise of the late, unlamented Soviet Union, occasioned by precisely such a loss of self-esteem. The West appears headed down the same road with Europe in the lead — but with Obama in the saddle, the US is rushing to catch up. And Israel, which is surely an outpost of Western Civilization, has moved to the head of the pack.

Much of the cowardice and stupidity identified by Oren and Klein are merely manifestations of said loss of self-esteem. Of course Israel is in the cross-hairs of all three trends, but the West is not far behind. That is, the forces that are poised at Israel’s throat today will be at the throats of the nations in the West very soon — in some instances, they already are.

The malignant form of Islam that infects significant parts of the Muslim world is intent on conquering and subjugating not only Israel, but also the West, indeed the entire world. That goal might sound preposterous to Americans, who are far removed from the call of the muezzin. But that does not mean that it is not a professed goal —one that is vocalized and acted upon every day by its adherents. We ignore it at our peril.

As for the loss of self-esteem by Western Civilization, that is an increasingly explored topic in America today, especially in the conservative literature. I too have addressed it in previous installments in this blog. The election of Barack Obama and his cohort of ultra-liberal Congressional allies bear vivid testimony to the advancing state of decay in the United States. My point here is that the growing leftist, multicultural, pacifistic, egalitarian, anti-patriotic, anti-religious, corruption-riddled mentality that inhabits the Israeli body politic is, I believe, a manifestation of exactly the same kind of loss of self-esteem that is crippling Europe and increasingly the United States.

Finally, why is resurgent anti-Semitism a problem for the West as it is of course for Israel? Simple. History has shown that the words of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 12:3, ‘Now the Lord said unto Abra[ha]m: .. . And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’) are indeed true. Those nations that have welcomed and nurtured the Jews, like the US, have prospered and succeeded; those that have persecuted the Jews, like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, have been consigned to the ash heap of history. Once upon a time, not that long ago, the disease of anti-Semitism nearly destroyed Europe. The Europeans are apparently foolish enough to give it a second try. Pray that the US is not so foolish.