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An Appetite for Self-Destruction By: Melanie Phillips
The Jewish Chronicle | Friday, January 18, 2008


Beyond the grandstanding over President Bush’s visit to Israel this week, there is an even more important concern than over what America may be pushing it to do. This is Israel’s own attitude towards its identity and history and, by extension, its right to exist at all.

Among the Israeli intellectual elite, the instinct for national self-destruction reaches near-hallucinatory levels.

A recent research paper by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, which wondered why, unlike other armies, Israeli soldiers did not rape women under their occupation, claimed that this was because IDF troops viewed Arab women as sub-human. This absurd piece of malice was awarded a teachers’ committee prize by the Hebrew University.

Clearly, Nitzan should have interviewed Ha’aretz editor-in-chief David Landau, who was reported as telling US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a dinner last September that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” as it was a “failed state” that needed a US-imposed settlement.

Such grand guignol flights from reason can only deepen respect for the strategic genius of Yasir Arafat. 

He understood that while Jews would unite against conventional attack, they wouldn’t cope with the psychological pressure of being turned into international pariahs through a falsified colonial narrative of oppression.

But even he could hardly have foreseen the extent to which Israeli intellectuals would so completely invert their own history, and swallow the fiction that the Middle East impasse is over the division of the land and that Jewish possession of that land is illegitimate.

This series of untruths has now coalesced into an axiomatic assumption that Jerusalem must be divided, as stated by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview in the Jerusalem Post last weekend.

But as Dore Gold authoritatively documents in his important book The Fight for Jerusalem, the Jews have a unique and overwhelming claim to Jerusalem which is central to the unique nature of the Jewish state.

It is no accident, therefore, that this pressure to divide Jerusalem comes at a time when the Jewishness of Israel is being openly called into question. Olmert says that a “two-state solution” is essential to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. But the Arabs themselves have now ruled out a Jewish state altogether.

Olmert insists nevertheless that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel as a Jewish state “in his soul”. Olmert clearly possesses truly wondrous psychic powers, displayed even as members of Fatah associated with Abbas’s own security apparatus were murdering two Israelis on a hike near Hebron.

The West believes that dividing Jerusalem is the fairest solution. But when were aggressors ever thus rewarded at the expense of their victims, even while they continued their century-old war as the Arabs are doing?

Why doesn’t Israel put the record straight? Why doesn’t it remind the world of that same world’s conclusion back in 1920 that the Jews had a unique claim to the entire land of Israel, including Jerusalem? Why doesn’t it recall how, when Jordan illegally occupied east Jerusalem until 1967, it desecrated Jewish holy sites, ripping up Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives to use them for latrines?

Why doesn’t it tell the world that the Islamic claim to Jerusalem is not so much religious as political — and that, as Gold states in his book, since the capture of Jerusalem is seen as the precursor to the fall of the entire West, the division of the city would recruit untold additional numbers to the global jihad?

It doesn’t do so for two reasons. First, it still fails to grasp that the real battleground is composed not of rockets and human bombs but of ideas. And second, much of its intellectual class has come to believe the mendacious propaganda of Israel’s enemies.

In Israeli schools and on campus, there is widespread ignorance of Jewish history and of the indissoluble bond between the religion, the people and the land which constitutes Jewish identity.

When Israel’s Education Minister issues a textbook for Israeli Arab children that teaches them the Arab propaganda line that the 1948 War of Independence was a naqba, or catastrophe, something has gone badly wrong with the foundations of Israeli self-belief.

The real reason Israel doesn’t fight the battle of ideas to defend Jewish history and identity is that increasingly it is repudiating them. The Arabs thus don’t need to do much to bring about the end of the Jewish state. The Jews will do it for them.

Melanie Phillips is a British social commentator and author and a columnist for the Daily Mail. Her articles can be found on her website, www.melaniephillips.com.


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