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Israel is the West’s bulletproof vest

July 9, 2007

You can divide the world into those whose sympathies lie with Israel, and those who support Palestine. This is a pivotal issue, and tells you a lot about the world views of those concerned.

Those who support Palestine can broadly be divided into two groups: Muslims, who are angered by the suffering of their co-religionists, and progressive people who are politically opposed to the denial of human rights to Palestinians, and the perceived imperialism of the West. They sometimes make very uncomfortable bedfellows, on which more in another post.

As for supporters of Israel, I think their ideas can by largely summed up like this: Western society, although flawed, is the best society on Earth today. It has higher levels of prosperity, and higher levels of personal freedom, than all other societies. There is a war between the forces of progress – the West – and the forces of reaction – Islam.

Israel is the front line in this struggle, and however uncomfortable it might be, must be defended.

An extreme version of this view is expressed in this excellent piece from Seth Freedman at the Guardian’s Comment is Free:

this is … “the war of Islam versus Judaism and Christianity. The Arabs have a saying – ‘first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.’ If we cave in, then the next step will be turning Europe into Eurabia….We’re the bulletproof vest for the rest of Israel and, by extension, the world.”

Seth and Josh’s blog is well worth a look as well, and contains this gem of a description of American immigrant settlers in the West Bank:

“Not all of the people that I met in this small, remote settlement were stupid and only some carried guns, but within the small American minority amongst whom we were staying, the mixture of guns and ignorance emitted an ominous odour. “

Understanding this thinking goes along way to explaining why supporters of Israel are unable to accept criticism. Even when Israel behaves despicably – and they know it does, and it embarrasses them – they have to defend Israel, because Israel is in the front line, fighting for ‘our’ values.

Without brave little Israel out there keeping the oriental hordes at bay, we’d all be swamped by Muslims and living under Sharia by next Friday.

Their support for Israel is based, more than anything else, on fear: fear of the Other, fear of the end of their privileged position, and so on. There’s a word for this: Islamophobia.

The problems with this viewpoint are clear:

Firstly, it doesn’t take into account the diversity within the Muslim world. This view appears to see all Muslims as equally fundamentalist, all sharpening their knives to chop off heads, and sewing up veils to oppress our women. They don’t understand that it is their attitude that is fueling Islamic fundamentalism, that Islamic societies have the same tensions between the forces of progress and reaction as Western ones. They are strengthening the hand of the fundamentalists by ‘proving’ that the West is out to get them.

Bush and Bin Laden: two sides of the same coin.

The second major problem is the whole ‘West is best’ idea. The West is only the best if you’re an insider. If you’re not a citizen of a Western country – or if you are, but you’re poor or belong to the wrong race – the system doesn’t work for you. The West is an exclusive club, and you’re not invited. Its quality of life is premised on exploitation elsewhere.

The other major reason for supporting Israel is economic: the US – the bastion of support for Israel – needs a tactical base in the Middle East to facilitate access to oil.

When the US dollar collapses, it will be the end of the road for Israel.

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