Prof. Louis Rene Beres
Prof. Louis Rene BeresProf. Louis René Beres

Special to Israel National News

“The sow collapsed under them, and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her.” -William Golding, Lord of the Flies

For Israel, every act of naming is dense with implication.

For Israel’s enemies, “anti-Zionism” is a propagandistic naming, one used for creating deflections from what is actually reviled.

The true target of Israel’s enemies is a Jewish State, any Jewish state, whatever its purported policies and whatever its determinable form.

There are pertinent nuances and multiple details. For Israel’s interconnected and force-multiplying foes, anti-Zionism has never been anything more than a euphemized derivative of anti-Semitism. It follows, among other things, that before Israel could experience any durable deliverance from jihadist war and terror, it would first have to acknowledge the authentic sources of adversarial loathing.

Too often, by failing to call things by their correct name, Israel has ignored critical expectations of memory. By refusing to acknowledge that the Jewish State is always the individual Jew writ large, that the enemies of Israel are animated by genocidal motives because the land is a Jewish state in the Dar al Islam and not because it is an “aggressor” or “occupier,” the People of Israel have been sentenced to be surprised by continuous Islamist barbarisms. As matters of tangible policy, Israeli affirmations of “never again” are stirring and reasonable, but they are not purposeful per se.

Whatever the ways in which the beleaguered individual Jew may have changed over the centuries, the anti-Semite has remained faithful to his most primal hatreds.

For the most part, this is because the anti-Semite, individually and collectively, responds not to any authentic qualities of “The Jew” or the Jewish State (these alleged qualities are irrelevant to irrational hatreds), but to his own personal fears and anxieties. Jean-Paul Sartre explains this most succinctly in Anti-Semite and Jew (1948): "If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him."

How does all this “fit” with current geo-politics in the Middle East, with Arab and Iranian promises that only unending Israeli surrenders will bring peace? What exactly are the genuine concerns of Iranian or Hamas anti-Semites, fears that give rise to perpetual hatred not just of The Jew in microcosm (the Jew as individual), but also of The Jew in macrocosm (the sovereign State of Israel)?

“The anti-Semite,” says Sartre, “is a man who is afraid, not of the Jews, to be sure, but of himself, of his own consciousness, of his liberty, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitariness, of change, of society, and of the world - of everything except the Jews.”

Here is more from the distinguished 20th century French philosopher:

"He [the anti-Semite]is a coward who does not want to admit his cowardice to himself; a murderer who represses and censures his tendency to murder without being able to hold it back, yet who dares to kill only in effigy or protected by the anonymity of the mob; a malcontent who dares not revolt from fear of the consequences of his rebellion."

Still, there is one evident and confusing mistake in Sartre’s explanation: In the Gaza War with Hamas and also with Iran’s Hezbollah proxy in the north, the enemy anti-Semite is willing to kill “for real,” not “only in effigy.” This willingness, visceral, almost lascivious, is unconstrained by any decent concerns for humanitarian international law.

Though it is obvious that Israeli military operations have produced civilian casualties in both theaters of conflict, these harms are always unintentional, the direct result of enemy resorts to “perfidious” tactics (i.e., “human shields”).

In stark contrast, the violent Arab harms inflicted upon innocent Israeli citizens, especially the brutalized and sexually violated October 7 hostages, are the product of willful jihadist criminality (in law, of mens rea).

In essence, Iran-backed Hamas (Sunni) and Hezbollah (Shiite) crimes have nothing to do with achieving Palestinian Arab sovereignty or statehood. For these terror-criminals, what is being sought is the sheer ecstasy of primal human barbarism. For those who might not remember, on October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists gang-raped and tortured male Israelis as well as females, infants and young children as well as adults. In the fashion of tribal boys in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the killers were “heavy and fulfilled” by sexually-animated murders.

Were the Hamas-inflicted atrocities of October 7 in any way a defensible path to Palestinian Arab statehood or “justice?” Were they in any way a plausible path to “martyrdom,” immortality or “power over death?” Could such hideous connections ever be supportable by respectable religious doctrine?

Supportable or not, an incontestable attachment exists between terrorists inflicting primal harms and terrorists relieving personal death fears. Recalling Lucretius's epicurean poem, On the Nature of Things, this attachment has generally ignored vital implications for Israel's survival. What the young Virgil, citing Lucretius, calls fear of "the doom against which no prayer avails," is what leads Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah to defile and destroy innocent Jewish life. Because they expect to ward off death by acts of “sacrifice,” these enemies turn enthusiastically to “martyrdom,” to inflicting crudely primal violence against Israelis.

The last scene of Lucretius's poem is a bloody battle that would not have taken place if the combatants had embraced courage in the face of death. Accordingly, there could be no greater cowardice that what is currently being displayed by Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. In significant measure, these criminal groups seek to inflict death and destruction upon “The Jew” because they compulsively fear death. Ultimate human cowardice is discoverable in the cringing behaviors of terrorist leaders like Yahya Sinwar, several of whom live safely and luxuriously in five-star hotels or villas outside the combat areas. As for the manipulated Palestinian Arabs who must endure Israel’s no-choice war in situ, they are casually dismissed by their leaders as “necessary sacrifices.”

With such grotesque understandings at work, what is Israel to do? To begin, Israelis must finally understand that past is prologue, that "Death to Israel" is simply a new phrase for ancient hatreds. Leaders of the Jewish state who are still hoping for successful geopolitical processes should not be deceived. Aware that Israel's geopolitical future is linked to its Jewish historical past, these leaders should never expect safety from any "civilized" acceptance of diplomatic concessions or compromises, but from a judicious commitment to national power based on intellect, reason and “mind.”

Jerusalem should always bear in mind that civility among the barbarians can lead only to Israel’s national defeat.

By definition, for Israel, a Jewish State must remain a reliable refuge for the individual Jew. Once Israel was formally re-established in 1948 (there never was any State of Palestine), the rescue challenge shifted from "illegal" immigrations to freeing Jews from murderously anti-Jewish countries. The best known of these remarkable rescue missions are Operation Magic Carpet, which extricated the Jews of Yemen; the extensive North African Operations Plan, which assisted hundreds of thousands of Jews in emigrating from Morocco; and the sustained effort to aid Jews - with the help of the Kurds - to escape from Iran after Khomeini's Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Even more generally recognized, perhaps, were Operations Moses and Solomon, which freed the Jews of Ethiopia; the ingathering of over 400,000 Russian Jews in 1991; and the 1992 rescue of 1400 Jews from Bosnia, where "ethnic cleansing" had targeted a broader-than-usual variety of victims.

Rescue was not always possible from the Arab lands. A particularly painful episode concerns the Jews of Iraq. There are today only a few dozen Jews left in Iraq out of a community which in 1948 had numbered about 135,000.

During World War II, after violent anti-Jewish harangues by the Mufti of Jerusalem, who had journeyed to Baghdad, hundreds of Jews were slaughtered in the streets and in their houses, especially during the riots of June 1-2, 1941. After the War, in August 1948, Zionism was officially declared a crime by the Government of Iraq and many Jews were imprisoned, tortured and hanged. After the Six Day War, large numbers of Jews were accused of spying for Israel by the Iraqi Ba'ath Regime. Nine were sentenced to death for alleged "Zionist activity." They were publicly hanged before jubilant crowds on January 27, 1969.

So the Jews, to the extent possible, were brought safely to Zion. Now, the crucial task demands that safety, indeed, survival, be brought to Israel itself, to the Jewish State, to the macrocosm. Rescue to Israel ought never to become an oxymoron, a situation amounting to absurd transition from the frying pan into the fire. In lacking the capacity to fully defend its citizens from the threat of genocidal war, Israel could ultimately represent not a solution to the "Jewish Problem," but - in an unutterably obscene irony of history - the follow-on component of a "Final Solution."

One must remain aware, of course, that any juxtaposition of Israel and Jewish disappearance is so dreadful that it borders on sacrilege. Nonetheless, it is a juxtaposition that dare not be ignored. Should we fail to take it seriously, the concentration of millions of post-Holocaust Jews in an area smaller than America’s Lake Michigan could be a blessing to those primal Islamist enemies who would gleefully refashion genocide as war. But if we do take seriously the authentic connections between Islamist objectives and Jewish vulnerabilities in Israel, we will have taken critical steps toward ensuring Israel's survival.

In the best of all possible worlds, there would indeed be a rationality-directed Middle East, and all regional states would recognize the value of comity and cooperation as overriding. Here, all states could take for granted Emmerich de Vattel's notion of "mutual aid" (The Law of Nations, 1758) as the dominant geopolitical expectation: “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.

The core problem, of course, is that Emmerich de Vattel's "first general law" is an elaborate fiction, derived from an illusory model of individual human and state behavior. What is required instead, for Israel, is a model that reflects accurately the determining passions and principles of all players in the region. Such a model, wherein things would finally be called by their correct names, would yield "laws" drawn not from idealized visions of a “new” Middle East, but from the sober awareness that Israel's enemies, crouched so long in a bruising darkness, remain face down to life for the Jewish state.

There exists, among Israel's jihadist enemies, a voluptuousness all their own; the voluptuousness of brutal conflict against the Jewish state as such. It is in Israel's strategic interest never to lose sight of this determinative voluptuousness. Israel's regional enemies do not read Clausewitz. If they read anything at all, it would appear they have variously defiling affinities for De Sade.

When Pericles delivered his Funeral Oration and other speeches, with their elaborate praise of Athenian civilization, his perspective was largely military. Recorded by Thucydides, an historian whose main interest was to study the growth and use of power for military objectives, the speeches of Pericles express confidence in ultimate victory for Athens, but also express grave concern for self-imposed setbacks along the way: "What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies is our own mistakes." There is an important lesson for Israel: In observing enemy preparations for war, do not forget that the effectiveness of these preparations will always depend upon Israel's particular responses.

The obligation to remain powerful in a world of international anarchy forms the central argument of global power politics from the Melian Dialogues of Thucydides and Cicero to Machiavelli, Locke, Spykman and Kissinger. "For what can be done against force without force?" asks Cicero in one of his Letters. Later, in our own century, Nicholas Spykman replied: "In a world of international anarchy, foreign policy must aim above all at the improvement or at least the preservation of the relative power position of the state."

Such arguments are not incorrect, but they are also trivial. The anarchy that Israel confronts in world politics today is vastly different from what it was 76 years ago. Now it is more far-reaching and existential, operating not only between states, but also within them. Now it is a primordial anarchy or chaos, the lawlessness of William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

What does this suggest about Israel's survival imperatives, about its plausibly threatened disappearance? How should Israel's leadership plan in the face of chaos? How will Israel be impacted by growing confusions amid its enemies? How will it be affected by chaos among its few remaining "friends?"

In all world politics, but especially in the Middle East, we are present at the gradual unveiling of a secret, but the nucleus of meaning, the core truth of what is taking place is left unsaid. For the immediate future, Iran will continue its preparations for chemical/biological/nuclear war. Altogether unaffected by parallel public commitments to “ceasefires,” these preparations will proceed on their own meandering track, culminating, if unobstructed, in new and substantially more portentous aggressions against Israel. Israel should not close its eyes to apocalyptic enemy preparations or to the associated and synergistic dangers of a Palestinian Arab state and/or one-sided "peace" settlements.

"We are often asked," said the late Italian Jew and survivor Primo Levi in The Drowned and the Saved, "as if our past conferred a prophetic ability upon us, whether Auschwitz will return...." However, we might choose to answer so terrible but unavoidable question, the Jewish past seems to have conferred little in the way of prophetic abilities. At times, by deluding itself that not seeing is a way of not knowing, Israel has distanced itself from the most life-saving forms of warning.

A passage in the Odyssey speaks of two gates, one of horn and one of ivory. Through the ivory gate false dreams pass to humankind, and through the gate of horn go only the true and prophetic dreams. At this moment in its always precarious history, Israel is sorely tempted by the ivory gate, choosing to base preservation of the beleaguered state on various errors of “naming.”

Israel would be better advised to pass instead through the gate of horn, always preparing to use power and force as needed. This decision would likely occasion great pain and uncertainty in the short run, but it would be far better than to entice a nuclear oblivion. More specifically, Israel should immediately acknowledge that a larger and protracted war with Iran is all but inevitable, and that this war should be waged whole Iran is still a pre-nuclear adversary. The single greatest danger to Israel lies in a nuclear Iran, a prospect that cannot simply be overlooked or gainfully wished away.

The survival task for Israel, therefore, is not war avoidance with Iran, but plausibly its precise opposite. This is the case whether or not Iran is presumed to be a rational enemy, one that would expectedly value its national survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences.

In the final analysis, though largely unrecognized, human species survival is linked to Israel’s survival as a state. At its core, a world without Israel would be a world of darkness, a primal chaos in which every flower of civilization would be trampled and from which there could be neither escape nor sanctuary. To ensure that such a self-defiling world will never materialize, Israel’s leaders should finally understand that the existential enemy is not anti-Zionism, but anti-Semitism; that is, a viscerally underlying hatred of “The Jew.”

Though this hatred makes no intellectual sense and is based entirely on irrational fears, it remains the fundamental adversarial reality with which Israel must persistently engage. A Lord of the Flies reality, it means that Iran and its jihadist sub-state proxies could never be content with Israeli geopolitical concessions or surrenders. Israeli agreement to a Palestinian state could never bring palpable satisfaction to Israel’s enemies.

The true enemy of these ritualistic murderers is never the “Zionist.” It is always “The Jew.”