How I Move On

The televised spectacle of the war aroused great enthusiasm in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and in Western Europe.

P. David Hornik

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Arutz 7
In a sense, the most terrible thing about the recent anti-Israeli terror war was not the war itself, but the reaction to it in Western Europe. The war was yet another of the ongoing examples of human savagery. The ability to slaughter men, women and children without a qualm of conscience, indeed with gusto, is not only not unusual, but one of the identifying characteristics of humanity.

The televised spectacle of the war aroused great enthusiasm in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and in Western Europe. Again, the reaction in the former two worlds was not in any way jarring. Almost all these countries are dictatorships in which the political and religious authorities encourage hatred, particularly of the anti-American and anti-Israeli varieties; civilized standards may someday come to these societies, but so far they have not.

Western Europe, however, prides itself on civilized standards, and in many regards the pride is justified. These countries are bona fide democracies that, internally at least, protect human rights. Their "anti-Zionism", or hostility to Israel, has been growing since the early 1970s, along with sympathy for what they regard as the Arab and Palestinian causes. (The reasons for this are mainly political and economic and are analyzed brilliantly by Bat Ye'or in her book Eurabia.) Still, one may have thought the character of the Arafat-driven terror war launched in the fall of 2000 would have given pause to West Europeans and induced a rethinking. The sight of babies being blown up in their strollers, teenagers being blown up while waiting in line at a disco, off-duty soldiers having their eyes gouged out and being dragged burning through a street by a mob, a pregnant mother and her four children being machine-gunned to death in a car, and so on and so on - none of this led the citizens of this enlightened continent to ponder whether their sympathy for the Palestinians had perhaps been exaggerated, their condemnation of Israel perhaps too automatic. Indeed, the effect was the opposite: the anti-Israeli tide rose to heights not seen since the anti-Semitism of the 1930s.

No doubt, media distortion played a role in inciting the perverse response. West European media are known to downplay Palestinian terror attacks themselves while highlighting Israel's military retaliatory measures as if they constitute the true barbarity. The focus is on the demolition of the suicide bomber's home instead of on the suicide bombing itself; the building of a fence to keep the terrorists out is portrayed as the true crime. Still, one could imagine even this distorted coverage producing a "pox on both their houses" attitude. There has been no particular West European sympathy for Islamist terrorism in, say, Pakistan, the Philippines or Nigeria - let alone for Basque or IRA terrorism. Repeated acts of mass murder may well meet with indifference, but they generally do not stir enthusiasm and solidarity. But dozens of Palestinian mass murders of Israelis in the space of a few years did nothing to stop the voluminous financial support and loving idolization of the "Palestinian people", while only intensifying anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic passions in Europe itself.

Despite the vast amounts that have been written, I do not think Israelis, or their Jewish and non-Jewish supporters, have grasped the full moral horror of this terror war that was funded, abetted and applauded by so much of the world, including the European heartland of Western democracy. The world is routinely and rightly castigated for its apathy toward ongoing atrocities in places like Sudan or North Korea - not to mention the apathy, at best, toward the Shoah as it was unfolding. Apathy is bad enough; but still not as bad as zesty approval for atrocities that are the focus of media attention and shown graphically on TV screens every evening.

The effect on me has to been to push me further into ethnocentrism and pessimism about human nature. There may seem to be a contradiction, since Judaism is an optimistic ideology that believes human nature is ultimately redeemable. I am, however, a person influenced by Judaism, but not a formal believer in it, and the four years of the wildly popular anti-Jewish terror war have distanced me further from the messianic and tikkun-olam (world-repairing) theme of Judaism.

Since I'm not fueled just by loyalty or indignation, I have to ask what it is that keeps pushing me forward. It seems that to keep living in a Jewish, civilized society that more or less resists its would-be destroyers is a simple, necessary affirmation. The alternative - to stop caring, to disengage mentally - has no appeal to me. I wish I could say I believe that Israel, or ethical monotheism, or George Bush's plans of democratization, have the potential to improve the world and replace barbarism with civilization. But human nature, more than ever, looks too flawed to me; when it takes a step forward, it takes at least two backward. The rot is not just in the fascistic Muslim societies, but in many of the democracies themselves. I affirm without believing.