Rami Khouri
The Daily Star
August 18, 2010 - 12:00am

The capacity of Zionism and the leaders of Israel to be both heroic to the Jewish people and compulsive liars to the rest of the world is one of the great tragedies of our time – and it is on display again these days in the ongoing media campaign to prepare American public opinion for a possible Israeli military strike against Iran.

The gold standard for lying and mangling historical facts among Israeli leaders is the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He leads the current Israeli campaign, which has mainly used American journalists and columnists to make the point that Jews cannot take chances with their security, and Israel’s security is now threatened by the continuing development of the Iranian nuclear industry.

A good example of this was a column a few days ago by the leading conservative columnist George Will, whom I otherwise respect both for his reasoned eloquence and his elegant writing on two great American past-times – ideological politics and baseball. This time, though, he allowed himself to become a mouthpiece for the core, tragic feature of the Jewish people that is now institutionalized in the Israeli government: perpetual victimhood and vulnerability.

The historical suffering, grievous abuse and criminal mistreatment of Jews (mostly in Christian Europe), with centuries of anti-Semitism culminating in the genocidal Holocaust, is one of the terrible sagas of human depravity and evil. Netanyahu and others like him today do the Jewish people a disservice by perpetuating understandable Jewish fears for their own security and translating them into exaggerated lies about Jews, Arabs, Iranians, Muslims and the world.

Will’s column reflected this very succinctly, by unquestioningly broadcasting a few key themes that Netanyahu and the Israeli machine of lies have been churning out, including, allegedly, that there is a worldwide campaign to “put the Jew back to the status [before the creation of Israel in 1948] of a being that couldn’t defend himself – a perfect victim” and to delegitimize Israel in order to extinguish its capacity for self-defense; that there is a crystallizing consensus that “Israel is not allowed to exercise self-defense”; that any Israeli self-defense anywhere is automatically judged “disproportionate”; that if Iran were to “wipe the Zionist entity off the map,” as it vows to do, it would achieve a regional “dominance not seen since Alexander”; that 1948 meant “[f]or the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack … the tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense,” so that “[i]f Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.”

These are powerful, often compelling, themes that strike deep emotional and political chords, especially among Americans and others in the West whose history combines both persistent anti-Semitism and complacency in the face of genocide and other massive atrocities against Jews, African blacks, native Americans and others.

Yet Netanyahu and his colleagues in the Israeli leadership and some global Zionist movements only deepen the tragic crisis of modern Judaism and Israel when they try to equate the contemporary national conflict between Israel and Arab states, or between Zionism, Arabism and Islamism, with historical anti-Semitism that denies Jews the right to live in dignity or defend themselves.

The facts are not that the world seeks an emasculated, defenseless and vulnerable Israel; they are that no state in the world enjoys more commitment to its security than does Israel. The Arabs have collectively and repeatedly offered to live in peace with Israel if it also accepts to live in peace with the Palestinians and Arabs.

The Arabs confront and fight Israel not because they share Christian European anti-Semitic vulgarities, but rather because since the 1940s the Palestinians and other Arabs have experienced the degradation of their lands, sovereignty and humanity at the hands of Zionism’s apparent need to occupy, colonize, strangulate, imprison, kill and lay siege to Arabs.

Netanyahu keeps the Jewish people in perpetual historical victimhood, helplessness and suffering by ignoring the reality that the state of Israel has been locked in a modern nationalist conflict with Arabs since the 1930s. Why are we asked to ignore modern Middle Eastern history – where Jews are strong players – and only wallow in the agonies and crimes of the past – where Jews are chronic weaklings and sufferers?

Israel seems to choose perpetual warfare and its own vulnerable victimhood over the available option of negotiating a comprehensive peace with all its neighbors, as it did with Jordan and Egypt. True friends of Israel around the world should reject partaking of this collective Zionist hysteria, and instead work with Israelis to leave the frightening world of Christian European racism and genocide, and instead explore more seriously the offer by the entire Arab world – still on the table, amazingly – to co-exist in peace and normal relations.


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