If you believe that all narratives are of equal worth and deserve a fair hearing, then you will see the other side to the coin of radicalization. Of course, most professing postmodernists and cultural relativists are hypocritical in that regard, using the idea of “all narratives are of equal worth” as a convenient pretext for casting the “Palestinians” as a David against the Israeli Goliath, but repudiating it in reality when Israel and the Jews today ask for a fair hearing of them. Thank G-d for the blogosphere as a way out.
All the world has heard of the narrative of formerly peaceful Arabs radicalized by the actions of Israel, and the Left has taken that narrative to a permanent place in its heart. That the enmity between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land predates the state of Israel by more than a century is of no interest to them. The possibility that the hostilities of the Arab world toward the Jews of the Land of Israel have always been an Islamic jihad, and not a nationalistic territorial feud, is never even entertained, because it is not conducive to the Marxist narrative of the struggle between haves and have-nots or to the general Leftist narrative of Western oppressors vs. the non-Western oppressed.
This narrative has been accepted by Jews as well, Israeli Jews too, ever since the 1970’s. The year 1970 could be considered the dawn of post-Zionism, signaled by Hanoch Levin’s play Malkat Ambatyah (“Bath Queen”), which cast self-skepticism on the whole Zionist project. To be sure, the 1970 play was probably benevolent introspection of the Yizharian kind, but, as we all know, it snowballed into what we see today. Also, back then in 1970, the play caused a great scandal, with uproar from Israeli society at large, and leaders of the Israeli Left of then demanding its removal (which did promptly take place). It was a different time.
By the time the 1980’s came to a close, the mainstream Israeli Leftist narrative was what I like to call the Sachbak Declaration. “Sachbak” is a slang word, from Arabic (as is most Israeli Hebrew slang), meaning “my friend”, and in the metaphorical sense, denoting the attitude of trying to be pally with the other, doing everything to reach them, to be friends with them. It is often used in a derogatory manner, for example when rebuking a student for speaking to his professor as if he were one of his classmates. (Indeed, the negative meaning may have started from IDF commanders berating soldiers under their command for failing to address them properly.) The Sachbak Declaration of post-Zionist Jews toward the Muslim enemy involved the sickly smile meaning to say, “I’m your friend! I’m just like you! Let’s just lay down our differences and talk and…”, and the rest; and it involved the mental concept that Jews and Muslims shared common dreams and that the bloodshed would stop as soon as all grievances were settled. Under this, the Oslo Accords were the bright ray of hope, and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza the embodiment of all evil.
This Sachbak mentality of the Israeli Left held near-absolute sway over Israeli politics for seven years, from 1993 to 2000, and had much power even beyond, until the recent events. In 1993 the Oslo Accords brought hope for peace; in 1995, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (hy"d) only strengthened it, because the assassination made it possible to equate all opposition to the Oslo Accords with the extreme fanaticism of Rabin’s assassin. In the years afterwards, the bus explosions saw the first cracks among some, but mostly only those who were already right-leaning. It took the Second Intifada, of October 2000, to arouse second thoughts in the Israeli Left; even so, when the time came in August 2005 to expel Jews from their homes in Gush Katif, most of the Israeli public did not care much for the settler’s cries of impending disaster.
But now, after this Lebanon War, Israeli Jewish soul-searching has been rampant. The excuses to which adherents of the Grievances Narrative could hold had become thin straws, for this war was centered not on holding the “occupied territories” (Gaza, West Bank and Golan Heights) but on protecting Israelis living within the internationally-recognized borders. The war was triggered by abductions and rocket fire initiated from areas Israel had evacuated for the sake of doing away with the enemy’s grievances.
There has been over these 13 years a slow but steady flow of Israeli Jews, even Leftists, abandoning the wish, nay, the yearning, to be friends (“sachbak”) with the enemy, having seen that the sentiment is not reciprocated, that the other side is not interested, to say the least. Why, they came to think, should we Israeli Jews tire ourselves out, and suffer our wounds silently, in trying to gain the friendship of the other side when the other side shows little effort in that direction? What good is our educating our children that the others are just like us when the others’ education system keeps bringing their children upon a mixture of the Koranic genealogy of Jews as descendants of apes and swine with the Norwichian Passover blood libel?
You may have read about the recent introspective cry of Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad on the sorry state of society in Gaza. Now, ask yourself: why does this make the news? It is, of course, because it is exceptional. In contrast, when a Israeli intellectual says similar things about Israel, most people yawn, and another article among hundreds on the subject is added to CounterPunch. Jewish extremists like Baruch Goldstein are marginalized in all but the restricted circle from which they emerged, while Muslims who hold to anti-Jewish aspirations much worse than Goldstein’s actions in comparison, indeed much more comparable to the aspirations of the leaders of Germany 70 years ago, are hailed as heroes far and wide, not just in their societies (the cult of Nasrallah is now all the rage with the “Palestinians”). Up until recently, in Israeli society a Jewish extremist could be one who merely expressed disagreement with the idea that all Jews should be expelled from the territories gained in 1967; whereas among the Muslims, now and for years, a Muslim moderate is one who is willing to relinquish the idea of the “Palestinian Right of Return” (euphemism for elimination of the Jewish state through immediate demographic overpowerment). Moreover, that Muslim would be right to fear for his life. Jews’ arguments against appeasement have won disapproval from the Israeli Left, while Muslims’ mere suggestion of abandoning the “Right of Return” have triggered… pulls of the trigger. The disparity is fundamental.
Now, ever since October 2000, and running from station to station, like September 11th, 2001, like the Danish Cartoons Affair, like the recent Lebanon War, Israeli Jews have been driven to engage in soul-searching, and some have become—dare I say it?—radicalized. Yes, that word which is thought to be reserved for victims of “Western and Zionist colonialism and imperialism”, that word is the most fitting here. It has now entered the minds of many Jews, even Leftist Jews, that reality does not bend to the post-colonial narrative, that the Sachbak Declaration doesn’t win the desired friends. Israeli Jews are beginning to realize that the sickly Sachbak smile wins only contempt from the Muslims, not friendship, not even the first steps toward friendship. The Israeli Jewish hand held out in a gesture of peace invites not an Arab hand shaking it but a Muslim fist clutching the handle of a scimitar to cut the Jew’s hand off.
“That was only a prelude”. The rest of the non-Muslim world will learn it too. The West has indulged in post-colonial guilt, in regret over the “oppression and exploitation of innocents” (all are innocent but Westerners under the post-colonial narrative), and now tries to make up for it by self-negation, by groveling to the other, most of all to the Muslim. But the reception, as with the Israeli Jewish Sachbak Declaration, is not what the Westerners expected: they are changed in status from oppressors to patronizers, from destroyers and exploiters of non-Western innocents to haughty, puffed-up, sophisticated know-it-alls who look down upon the natives and treat them like little children who need education. Not much of a change for the better, is it?
No. I’d say even a change for the worse. When you’re an oppressor, you’re hated but you’re also feared, and that gives you some protection; when you’re a patronizing sophisticate, a water-soft outsider among the Fremen, as it were, you’re not only hated, you’re considered weak. And with an world-imperialist enemy such as Islam, that image can be fatal. In a Hindu or Buddhist country, being laughed at is merely an unpleasant experience; when surrounded by Muslims, it is an invitation to jihad just as surely as a drop of blood calls the piranhas to the flesh in a frenzy.
We (Israeli Jews in particular, Westerners in general) were better off, and certainly no worse, when we had more the image of oppressor than patronizer. Sir Charles Napier may have been hated in his day for his decision to hang window-murderers in India, and considered the textbook example of a Western colonialist oppressor, but his self-guilty, appeasing, patronizing, weak-looking descendants in modern Britain are paying for their fear of being seen as oppressors with homegrown suicide bombers and plane hijackers and no way of countering them, because of self-righteous screams of the Politically Correct guardians of the always-innocent, ever-oppressed noble savages with their “legitimate grievances”.
To paraphrase a wise commander of old: Damn the rotten PC tomatoes! Full speed ahead!